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.
Keywords: Education; Mental illness; Peer; Psychiatry; Psychopathology; Stigma; Task shifting; Young people.