Mental effectiveness training: findings of two pilot studies

Two new studies conducted by the International Centre for Mental Health Social Research have found that mental effectiveness training helps you to learn more about your mind and be more effective in your daily life.

Your Mind: A User’s Guide ‘Your Mind: A User’s Guide’ was developed by Mindapples, an innovative social enterprise which campaigns to increase public understanding of the mind and raise awareness of the importance of good mental health.

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The course consists of eight one-hour sessions:

  1. Love your mind
  2. Master your moods
  3. Get motivated
  4. Handle pressure
  5. Know yourself
  6. Make smarter decisions
  7. Influence people
  8. Think creatively

Evaluation

We evaluated pilots of the training with undergraduate nursing students in a London university and with people who have used mental health services in London.

We used a waiting-list controlled trial design for the pilots to allow us to assess outcomes in comparison with a similar group not undertaking the training. All the people in the control group received the training after we had collected their follow-up data. We evaluated three outcomes at the end of training and three months later:

  • Knowledge of mental effectiveness – measured using a multiple choice quiz based on the content of the training
  • Ability to self-manage stress – measured using a four-item self-efficacy and resilience scale
  • Mental wellbeing – measured using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing scale

We also held focus groups with training participants to obtain their views on the training and its impact on their lives. All participants received shopping vouchers for completing questionnaires and attending focus groups.

Nursing students

Mindapples adapted the training for nursing students as they, just like social workers, experience high levels of stress in their roles. We hypothesised that training to help them to self-manage their stress and improve their mental agilities may help them in their training and subsequent careers.

Working with Professor Emeritus Alex Murdock from London South Bank University, we recruited 101 undergraduate nursing students to participate in the study. 57 were in the intervention group and 44 were in the control group and received training at the end of the study.

The students who received the Mindapples training improved their ability to self-manage stress and increased their knowledge about their own minds in contrast to the control group. In this modest sample, these improvements were statistically significant and maintained at three-month follow-up, and after differences between the intervention and control groups were considered. A statistically significant increase in mental wellbeing was also found for the intervention group post-training, though this difference did not persist at three-month follow-up.

The focus groups revealed that the students had readily engaged with the Mindapples training and were prepared to make the voluntary commitment to come to the sessions, often overcoming several barriers to doing so. The enthusiastic students also provided many examples of how it had benefitted both their academic work and clinical training. This evaluation was funded by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity and the full report can be downloaded here.

Mental health service users

Mindapples made further adaptations to the training to make it suitable for people who have experience of using mental health services. We hypothesised that its focus on mental health (rather than illness) may support their recovery.

The National Survivor User Network worked with us to recruit 82 participants for the pilot study. 39 were in the intervention group and 43 in the control group in two cohorts.

Participants receiving the Mindapples training increased their knowledge about their own minds in contrast to the control group. In this small sample, these improvements were statistically significant and maintained at three-month follow-up, and after controlling for socio-demographic variables. A statistically significant increase in participants’ ability to self-manage their stress was also found for the intervention group post-training and at three-month follow-up, though differences between the groups at baseline may largely account for this. No significant change in mental wellbeing was found.

Focus group participants appreciated the focus of the training on positive mental health which supported them in their daily lives. The lively and engaging style of the training, and user-friendly handouts, helped to secure a high attendance at the eight sessions. Many found the innovative training quite different to their experience of mental health services, and discussed how they have used it in their daily lives. They also provided many useful suggestions for future changes to make it more effective.

This evaluation was funded by Comic Relief and the full report can be downloaded here.

Final thoughts

These were relatively modest pilot studies, but they consistently found that the Mindapples training can be adapted for use with different groups with positive outcomes. Increased knowledge of mental effectiveness and improved ability to self-manage stress were maintained three months after the end of the training, suggesting that participants retained and made use of the new knowledge. Mental wellbeing did not significantly improve in both groups, but many studies have found this to be quite resistant to change.

Future research will need to randomise participants into intervention and control groups to minimise the potential impact of selection bias. However, these two studies provide good evidence that the Mindapples training can be adapted and produce positive outcomes in different groups of people.

This training may help to improve the mental effectiveness of social workers. But that’s for another study…

Acknowledgements

We are very grateful for all the participants who gave their time to participate in the training and the evaluation. We were ably assisted in this work by Charlotte Scott (who helped with the data entry and analysis, and the focus groups with students); Sarah Carr and Tina Coldham (who co-facilitated the focus groups with mental health service users and analysed the data); Alex Murdock (who co-ordinated the training with the students); Andy Gibson, Esther King and Amanda Walderman from Mindapples (who co-ordinated and delivered the training); staff at the National Survivor User Network; and staff and students at London South Bank University. A huge ‘thank you’ to you all, and to the two funders of these pilots. Full acknowledgements are provided in the two reports.

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