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MST4Life™: What Do Young People Think About It?


Welcome to the third and final installment of the mini-blog post series on Dr Grace Tidmarsh’s PhD work!


Following on from the second blog in this series, Mental Skills Training - Delivery Style Matters, we will take a deeper look at the factors that influence the My Strengths Training for Life™ (MST4Life™) programme, but this time from the perspective of the young people who participate in it.


 

The SPRINT Project team investigated the factors that impact upon young people’s engagement in the MST4Life™ programme by completing a process evaluation involving the young people who took part in it. Led by Grace, the results of this study are published in the journal Sport & Exercise Psychology Review.



Image description: A photo of young people, and staff from the SPRINT Project and the Raymond Priestly Centre completing a hike in the Lake District, which forms part of the MST4Life™ programme.



What is a process evaluation, and why is it important to include those who may benefit from the programme within it?


A process evaluation is a tool used by researchers to understand factors which may impact upon the success of intervention programmes. You can check out Grace’s findings from a systematic review of process evaluations of previous Positive Youth Development programmes in the first blog of this mini-blog post series here.


It is important to include the individuals for whom programmes are created to support within their process evaluations because:


1. It may make sure that the programme is culturally and contextually relevant.


2. It may provide individuals with a platform for expression and autonomy.


3. It can empower individuals who typically experience disempowerment, such as young people who experience homelessness.


4. It can provide further opportunities for positive development outside of the programme—which may be particularly important for young people experiencing homelessness, who may experience negative stereotyping, lack of representation, and limited access to support services.



How did the SPRINT team conduct the MST4Life™ process evaluation with the young people who took part in the programme?


The team used a data collection technique called a diary room. Here, young people provide answers to questions about their engagement in the programme in an informal, quiet, and safe environment. The way in which participants provide data is flexible, and can be via audio or video recording, or through a written reply.


Data from the diary rooms were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis which is a technique in which non-numeric information is broken down into meaningful chunks for further interpretation.



So, what was found?


  • Young people experience the content that is delivered within MST4Life™ as meaningful and engaging.

See below a comment made by a young person about how perseverance skills learnt in MST4Life™ were perceived as meaningful and generalisable:


“I think there are a lot of things I can apply to day-to-day life, you know, because it’s not just specific situations that those skills are necessary, you can apply them to whatever situation and, you know, they’re useful. But without the programme I obviously wouldn’t have known, you know, put into practice, and learn how to use these new skills.”

See below a comment made by a young person about the acceptability of outdoor-based activities, and that they would like more of these:


“I think as well more outdoor sessions. I mean I know we haven’t had the best weather, but the Cake Sale and Birmingham Safari were brilliant, we were out interacting with people…”

  • Young people identified the importance of an empowering, safe, and supportive delivery style that is evident within the MST4Life™ programme.

See below a comment made by a young person about how the delivery style helped to break down stigma and enable them to feel supported:


“It really goes to show what we can achieve when you have faith in yourself, like, and that faith stems from the fact these people [the facilitators] believe in us, young homeless people who live in a hostel who often feel like we’ve been forgotten about by the rest of society… For them to come and show how passionate they are about us as young people, it only reinforces the fact that we do matter and it’s brilliant.”

See below a comment made by a young person about how the delivery style encouraged motivation, as well as enjoyment:


“Lively [the delivery style], like everything’s on point… on point like, everything’s motivated like… it gets done and like everyone’s laid back but also they’re doing work and having fun.”

  • Barriers and challenges to engaging in MST4Life™ focused on understanding and meeting the complex needs that young people who experience homelessness face.

See below a comment made by a young person who felt supported to engage in the MST4Life™ programme even though they experienced anxiety:


“With someone who has anxiety, like, a lot of the time having to go over to like, for example the campus of the University, had I had to do that alone would have been a very different story and I would have been anxious, and it probably would have been to the point where I probably would have not come because of my anxiety.”

Image description: A photo of young people and staff from the Raymond Priestly Centre working together to complete an activity, forming part of the MST4Life™ programme.



Key takeaways


  • Data from young people highlights that the strengths-based, informal delivery style, and meaningful content within the MST4Life™ programme is important for promoting programme engagement and success.


  • Researchers and service providers who create and deliver intervention programmes for young people who experience homelessness should adopt a strengths-based, informal delivery style, and create content that is meaningful and engaging.


  • Non-traditional research methods (i.e., diary rooms) may make research engagement more accessible to marginalised groups, such as young people experiencing homelessness, and provide a platform for their self-expression and autonomy.


 

Do you want to find out more about the MST4Life™ process evaluation with young people? Read the academic paper here. You can also check out the mental skills that are trained in My Strengths Training for Life™ via our Mental Skills Toolkits.


 

References


Brunton, G., Thomas, J., O’Mara-Eves, A., Jamal, F., Oliver, S. & Kavanagh, J. (2017). Narratives of community engagement: a systematic review-derived conceptual framework for public health interventions. BMC Public Health, 17(1), 944. https://doi:10.1186/s12889-017-4958-4


Centrepoint (2020b). Locked Out: Youth Homelessness during and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. https://centrepoint.org.uk/media/4293/locked-outreport.pdf


Cronley, C. & Evans, R. (2017). Studies of resilience among youth experiencing homelessness: A systematic review. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 27(4), 291–311. https://doi:10.1080/10911359.2017.1282912


Cumming, J., Whiting, R., Parry, B.J., et al. (2022). The My Strengths Training for Life™ program: Rationale, logic model, and description of a strengths-based intervention for young people experiencing homelessness. Evaluation and Program Planning, 102045. https://doi:10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2021.102045


Tidmarsh, G., Thompson, J. L., Quinton, M. L., Parry, B. J., Cooley, S. J., & Cumming, J. (2022). A platform for youth voice in MST4Life: A vital component of process evaluations. Sport & Exercise Psychology Review, 17, 73-86. https://doi.org/10.53841/bpssepr.2022.17.1.73


Tidmarsh, G., Whiting, R., Thompson, J. L., & Cumming, J. (2022). Assessing the fidelity of delivery style of a mental skills training programme for young people experiencing homelessness. Evaluation and Program Planning, 94, 102150. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2022.102150


 

Photo credit: Dr Mark Holland.

Written by Dr Sally Reynard, Research Associate in the SPRINT Project.

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