Background: Mental illness is common and disruptive in adolescents. However, only a small proportion receives treatment. Low intensity preventative interventions may reduce symptoms and increase access to treatment, but few are targeted at young people. A Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) based guided self-help programme has been adapted for use in secondary schools; it covers 7 distinct topics, each with an accompanying booklet and lesson plan. This study investigates its use and feasibility in this context and examines pupil and teacher attitudes.
Method: Approximately 280 second year school pupils received two lessons on a single life-skills area. Attitudes toward each booklet and class were evaluated by questionnaire and results summarised using descriptive statistics. Qualitative data were gathered from teacher and pupil focus groups.
Results: 56.3% of pupils agreed the lesson was very interesting and 64.5% felt they learned something new and worthwhile. A minority felt motivated by the lesson (43.1%) or would recommend it to a friend (48.4%). The majority of pupils agreed they had developed life-skills; however these were not specific to the topic covered by their class. Content analysis of the focus groups identified four central themes - Acceptability, Guidance, Target Population and Changes - which largely reflected the quantitative results.
Conclusion: Overall, the lessons and booklets were well received by pupils and teachers: the design and language were popular and it functioned well as a group activity with pupils happy to discuss the majority of issues. The intervention has the potential to be popular, affordable and effective approach to school-based mental health interventions.