Mental health workshops delivered by medical students in Cambridge secondary schools: an evaluation of learning

Chloe Bentham, Anna Daunt, Stephanie Taylor, Meinou Simmons
Psychiatria Danubina 2013, 25: S224-30

AIMS: For a group of medical students to design and deliver a mental health workshop in Cambridge secondary schools. Subsequently, to evaluate any improvements in pupils' knowledge of mental health issues, including knowledge of common mental illnesses, stigma and where to access help with mental health problems.

METHOD: A group of three medical students undertook a five week Student Selected Component to develop a mental health workshop in Spring 2013. The workshop was designed to include interactive components, such as role play, models and video. It was delivered to eight classes of 12-13 year old pupils across two local secondary schools, a total of 230 students. Questionnaires were completed before and after each workshop to test knowledge acquisition of mental health issues, stigma and where pupils could get help with mental health problems. Comparisons between data from the pre- and post-workshop questionnaires were made to assess learning.

RESULTS: The responses from the questionnaires showed a global improvement in knowledge of mental health. This is highlighted by the increase in awareness of the prevalence of mental health problems amongst young people from 47.0% before the workshops to 97.8% after the workshops. The ability to identify symptoms of anxiety rose from 21.7% to 44.8% and the ability to identify depression rose from 29.0% to 53.5% respectively. Whilst only 15.2% pupils disagreed with a stigmatising statement about mental illness before the workshops, 61.3% pupils disagreed afterwards. The students were also better informed about how to access help and identified areas that they found useful to learn about.

CONCLUSION: Comparison of the pre- and post-workshop questionnaires indicate that medical student-led workshops are an effective method for improving knowledge of mental health topics amongst 12-13 year old school pupils, as well as encouraging positive attitudes towards mental health. The project highlights a demand for mental health education in schools and brings to light topics that could be covered in future sessions or similar projects.

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