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Evaluation of MST4Life™ – what did we find?

Updated: Dec 11, 2022

MST4Life™ is the first sport psychology, community‐based programme delivered to young people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. In our recent paper published in the Journal of Community Psychology, we wanted to find out whether:

  1. Young people differed in resilience, well‐being, and mental skills experiences based on their gender, ethnicity, social inclusion status (i.e. engaged in education, employment or training or not – EET/NEET, or unable to work), and learning difficulty status

  2. Participation in MST4Life™ led to improved resilience and well-being, and

  3. The mental skills developed through MST4Life™ were associated with resilience and well‐being.

Who took part?

246 young people aged 16-25 living in a large housing service who either had previously experienced homelessness or were at risk of becoming homelessness.

What did we do?

When young people took part in MST4Life™, we asked them to complete questionnaires. These captured important information around their demographics, and experiences of using mental skills through MST4Life™. The mental skills developed through the programme are:

We also asked young people to fill out questionnaires to let us know how their resilience and well-being changed from the start to the end of the programme. We especially wanted to know how well young people:

  • Engaged

  • Connected

  • Felt happy

  • Felt optimistic

  • Persevered.

What did we find?

(1) We found that when starting MST4Life™, there were some differences in how resilient young people were and how they saw their well-being levels. For example, those of a Black/African/Caribbean/Black British ethnicity told us that when they started the programme, they generally felt more resilient and optimistic, and that they generally felt they persevered in life, compared to young people of a White ethnicity.

Also, young people with a learning difficulty told us that when they started the programme, their resilience was lower than those without a learning difficulty.

But what was important was that even though young people started out the programme with different experiences of resilience and well-being, these differences did not influence the outcomes they went on to experience from MST4Life™.

(2) We found that overall, young people finished the programme with higher resilience and improved well-being.

(3) These improvements were associated with the mental skills young people developed through MST4LifeTM. This is a key finding, because it shows the link between the experiences in the programme and young people’s resilience and well-being!

At the end of MST4Life™, young people who felt they had developed a range of mental skills felt more engaged and optimistic.

The results show that it is important for young people to develop a variety of mental skills. For example, those that support young people to make efforts are linked to young people engaging well and feeling optimistic. Those involving emotional regulation are linked to young people’s engagement, optimism, and resilience.

So, what does this mean? There are some key messages to take away from this research:

  • Young people experiencing homelessness can improve their resilience and well‐being and develop mental skills, regardless of demographic characteristics, from taking part in MST4Life™

  • Learning difficulty status will be an important characteristic to consider in the future for young people to have equal experiences of programmes such as MST4Life™. This is important, because it means that policy makers and programme commissioners may need to consider how learning difficulties might affect the planning and evaluation of programmes such as MST4LifeTM

  • As there were no demographic differences in resilience or well‐being at the end of MST4Life™, it suggests that the needs supportive environment and PIE approach of facilitators overcame these differences and helped foster young people's well‐being to be closer to that of their housed peers

  • The opportunity to practise mental skills is associated with greater well‐being, highlighting the effectiveness of using a sport psychology informed MST program with this group. This has implications for housing services and programme commissioners to consider this novel approach for improving the resilience and well‐being of young people experiencing homelessness.

To access the full version of the article, please see here.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, then you may also be interested in our recently published qualitative realist evaluation of MST4Life™ - accessed here.

Don’t forget, you can now subscribe to our blog by clicking the button below! You can also view and download our Mental Skills Training Toolkit to find out more about the mental skills techniques developed through the programme.

We would love to hear what you think about the results of our evaluation. Please get in touch, or catch us over on Twitter using #MSTtoolkit #MST4Life

Photo credit: Bryan, De’Shonda, & thanasorn kanekankit on Reshot.

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