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Pilot evaluation to assess the effectiveness of youth peer community support via the Kooth online mental wellbeing website

Stevens, Madeleine ORCID: 0000-0003-3540-3494, Cartagena-Farias, Javiera ORCID: 0000-0002-5984-0317, Mindel, Charlotte, D’Amico, Francesco and Evans-Lacko, Sara ORCID: 0000-0003-4691-2630 (2022) Pilot evaluation to assess the effectiveness of youth peer community support via the Kooth online mental wellbeing website. BMC Public Health, 22 (1). ISSN 1471-2458

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Identification Number: 10.1186/s12889-022-14223-4


Background: Mental health problems among young people are of growing concern globally. UK adolescent mental health services are increasingly restricted to those with the most severe needs. Many young people turn to the internet for advice and support, but little is known about the effectiveness, and potential harms, of online support. Kooth is a widely-used, anonymised and moderated online platform offering access to professional and peer support. This pilot evaluation sought to assess changes in the wellbeing and mental health of Kooth users, and changes in their use of formal services, over one month. We explored how community aspects of the site were used, and we considered the economic implications for commissioners making Kooth available to young people. Methods: We surveyed young people when they first accessed Kooth and again one month later (n = 302). Respondents completed measures of mental health and wellbeing, including family relationships and pandemic-related anxiety, and reported on their use of services and, at follow-up, their perceptions of whether and how they had benefitted. We carried out qualitative interviews with ten participants, exploring perceptions of the Kooth community and its impact. Results: We found improvements across nearly all measures, including reductions in psychological distress, suicidal ideation and loneliness. Subsample analyses suggested similar benefits for those who used only the community/peer parts of Kooth as for those who engaged with Kooth’s counsellors. Participants reported learning from peers’ suggestions and experiences, described as different from the advice given by professionals. Helping others gave users a sense of purpose; participants learnt self-help strategies and became more confident in social interactions. Service use and opinion data suggested Kooth experiences may help users make more appropriate and effective use of formal services. Conclusion: This pilot evaluation suggests that Kooth is likely to be a cost-effective way of providing preventative support to young people with concerns about their mental health, with possible benefits across a range of domains which could be investigated in a future controlled trial.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Authors
Divisions: Personal Social Services Research Unit
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2022 15:48
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2024 04:42

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