The Mental Health in Higher Education (mhhe) project was set up with the aim of enhancing learning and teaching about mental health through increasing dialogue and the sharing of approaches across the disciplines in UK higher education. Four years on,what light does a recent evaluation shed upon its impact and the lessons learned?
This evaluation, conducted by an external consultant Judy McKimm and carried out over the early part of this year (2007), provides us with useful insights into the achievements of the project and will help to shape its future progress.
Evaluation activities included:
The project team are consistently praised for their hard work, sensitivity, support and their commitment to improving the teaching and learning in mental health. It is clear from the evaluation report that mhhe has:
The project has provided leadership in some aspects of learning and teaching about mental health - most notably in the area of user and carer involvement.
The website is clearly highly valued (although a number of suggestions were made about improvements to its structure):
I constantly refer to it... the links and resources sections are particularly rich in material.
The e-bulletin (distributed six times per year) is widely used and seen to be:
an invaluable round up of all news in mental health education.
Whilst the project team were perceived to be responsive and well informed in their approach to queries. By contrast, the mhhe discussion list is little used and would benefit from refocusing.
Respondents valued both national and regional events, rating highly the opportunity for exchange of ideas and information. Whilst links at regional/local level are one of the highest rated areas of impact, problems of consistency and sustainability across the UK were identified. A number of other means of supporting regional networking were suggested and will be followed up.
The report highlighted the significance of the intra-disciplinary work mhhe had undertaken within different professions and their subject centres, opening up or furthering debate about how mental health is taught in several disciplines. The Developers of Users and Carer Involvement network (DUCIE) - a network for user and carer involvement workers directly employed by HEIs - is rated highly:
the DUCIE meetings... have been incredibly useful, inspirational and helpful personally and have had a direct impact on taking my work forward.
Learning from Experience - a good practice guide on user and carer involvement - is seen to be a great resource, and should be even more useful when reissued as part of a planned revision.
Concern was expressed by some about mhhe’s capacity, given the complexity of the mental health field and limited resources of the project, adequately to meet the needs of the mental health learning and teaching community in higher education.
All of this provides substantial food for thought and will be helpful in shaping mhhe’s direction in the future. The evaluation has, itself, acted as a prompt for people to re-engage with the project. In the words of one respondent:
I do not feel I have taken as much advantage of mhhe as I potentially could have to date. I would hope to have a more active involvement in the future.
Do join the network if you haven’t already, and please do pass the word around!
For more information: www.mhhe.heacademy.ac.uk