MiHUB is a project designed to help young people with self-reflection and coping skills. Its part of the Future Challenges Programme under the ‘Young People and Mental Health’ theme. It utilises ProReal Ltd’s avatar web-based interactive technology to help young people with self-reflection and coping skills.
Currently, around one in ten children/young people in England has some form of clinically diagnosable mental health problem, while half of all mental health conditions are established before the age of 14.
ProReal’s technology was selected by an expert panel of assessors due to its potential value to improve outcomes for young people and to support the key priorities of the local health providers. The West of England AHSN co-designed the project with the innovator, clinical commissioning group (CCG), Local Authority, school and evaluator explore the potential value of the innovation for young people’s mental health resilience in a secondary school setting.
The technology developed by UK tech company ProReal Ltd uses 3D virtual worlds in which young people use avatars and symbols to create visual representations of everyday challenges. MiHUB has ten self-help exercises on a range of social and emotional topics which the students in this project wanted covered (e.g. relationship difficulties, worries about assessments, feeling low, being kind to myself, etc). A group of students helped inform the design of the virtual worlds, which were piloted with larger group from the same school year. The main aim of the project, against which it was evaluated, was to help students ‘feel good and function well’, as well as improve their mental wellbeing, resilience and coping strategies.
The Covid-19 pandemic affected both the project and evaluation. After the onset of Covid-19 in early 2020, activities were modified in line with pandemic restrictions affecting school timetables and routines, and this naturally caused interruption to data collection.
- MiHUB was deemed acceptable and worthwhile by students and staff, which is considered a strength, given school-based interventions can be found to have good outcomes but with low user-acceptability.
- Students were engaged with the resource, were interested in making comments about it and most felt that it would be useful for either themselves or others.
- The school also felt positive about the resource; they believed it complemented existing teaching and support, and asked to have extended access, beyond the trial period.
- The project did not cause any known harm during implementation, which some anticipated may occur with unsupervised access at home.
- While use of MiHUB (as an optional resource to be used independently) cannot be shown to improve mental wellbeing or resilience from our evaluation, it may provide an additional resource to engage young people in conversations and reflections about their mental health and related issues.
- Potential staff concerns about safeguarding should be addressed early in implementation (students highlighted confidentiality as a benefit), with appropriate training to address any underpinning staff assumptions that an intervention may not work, as these will undoubtably affect implementation success.