Prevention Science

, Volume 18, Issue 8, pp 995–1005 | Cite as

A Pre-Post Evaluation of OpenMinds: a Sustainable, Peer-Led Mental Health Literacy Programme in Universities and Secondary Schools

  • Praveetha Patalay
  • Jennifer Annis
  • Helen Sharpe
  • Robbie Newman
  • Dominic Main
  • Thivvia Ragunathan
  • Mary Parkes
  • Kelly Clarke


Engaging young people in the design and delivery of mental health education could lead to more effective interventions; however, few of these interventions have been evaluated. This study aimed to gain preliminary evidence with regards to the efficacy and acceptability of OpenMinds: a peer-designed and facilitated mental health literacy programme for university and secondary school students. The programme involves a structured programme of education and training for university medical students, who then deliver workshops in secondary schools. Pre- and post-surveys were completed by 234 school students who received two workshops and 40 university medical students who completed the OpenMinds programme and delivered the workshops. The main outcomes in both groups were components of mental health literacy (non-stigmatising attitudes, knowledge, social distance and helping attitudes). Perceived teaching efficacy and interest in mental health careers (university medical students) and workshop acceptability (school students) were also examined. University and school student participation in OpenMinds was associated with significant improvements in three of four mental health literacy elements in both samples. Knowledge and attitudes improved in both samples, social distance improved only in the university sample and knowledge of helping behaviours increased in the school sample. University students’ perceived teaching efficacy improved but there was no change in their reported interest in pursuing psychiatry in their career. Acceptability was high; over 70% of the school students agreed that they enjoyed the workshops and liked being taught by a university student. This study provides preliminary evidence for the acceptability and efficacy of OpenMinds as a sustainable peer-led model of mental health education for young people. The OpenMinds programme is ready for efficacy testing in a randomised trial.


Education Task shifting Stigma Mental illness Psychopathology Young people Peer Psychiatry 



We would like to thank the OpenMinds organisers and clinical leads in all the universities where the programme runs, with special mention to Louise Hrynkiewicz, Gil Myers, Nikita Thakrar, Ailbhe Doherty, James Fish and Ezme Cohen, and to Emily Titherington who co-founded UCL OpenMinds. We thank all the university students, school staff and school students who participated in and received OpenMinds over the years, including those who took part in the evaluation study.


We are grateful to the James Wentworth-Stanley Memorial Fund for funding this evaluation. The funders had no role in the study design, data collection, analysis and writing of the report.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

KC co-founded the programme and KC, MP, TR and RN have been involved in the running of the programme at their universities. No other authors have any conflicts of interests to declare.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was received from all participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Institute of Psychology, Health and SocietyUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK
  3. 3.University of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  4. 4.King’s College LondonLondonUK
  5. 5.Imperial College LondonLondonUK

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