The University of Suffolk is supporting Universities UK #GettingResults campaign which shows how universities are essential to the UK’s recovery from COVID-19.
Over the next five years, universities in the UK will provide support to small enterprises, businesses and charities worth £11.6bn.
EIRA (a Research England Connecting Capabilities Fund project) awarded funding for Suffolk Mind, the University of Suffolk and the University of Essex to work together to develop, deploy and evaluate a new working prototype of an e-learning platform that supports the face-to-face training Suffolk Mind already delivers across the county. The organisations initially worked together in a workshop model to understand the charity’s training programme, requirements and expected outcomes, before jointly drafting a funding application for the product development and research.
Giving people better, and more efficient access, to mental health services has never been more important. Around 3,000 people a year attend Suffolk Mind’s ‘Your Needs Met’ training course, which dispels some of the myths around mental health and raises awareness of emotional needs and how an individual can keep those needs balanced to stay well.
Suffolk Mind could not keep up with demand for the course but wanted to ensure as many people as possible would be equipped with the tools to take responsibility for their own mental health. They also wanted to diversify their income streams and had identified employers and partners wishing to ensure good mental health for their employees and service users a key audience for the training.
The charity needed to know if making the course available on a digital platform would expand its reach while still delivering the same impact.
Even prior to Covid-19 and home working, the organisation recognised that the creation of a new digital platform would help improve flexibility and increase engagement with the training, significantly increasing the reach and impact of these services around Suffolk and beyond. They also realised this could increase their employer engagement and create an additional income stream.
Sean Preston, Senior Lecturer in Computing and Course Leader at University of Suffolk undertook the development of a web application prototype, in close consultation with Suffolk Mind, to ensure it would have the relevant capabilities. The prototype then informed the UX research, delivered by the Psychology Department at the University of Essex.
Thanks to the collaboration, Suffolk Mind now has an effective, independently evaluated prototype, proven as an effective tool to improve awareness of mental health self-management. They also see the value that university backed research brings, by way of rigour and validity.
Now that they have their proof of concept, the charity is developing the prototype into a market-ready product. The successful completion of this project has provided a strong foundation on which the charity is looking to develop its income in the future by being able to offer this as an alternative to face to face training, for large scale organisations, partners, individuals and nationally across the UK to anyone who wishes to learn more about the approach. This will significantly increase the volume of people aware of how to look after their mental health, much wider than just Suffolk. The knock-on effect of this will be a decrease in people developing mental illnesses.
Long Term Partnership
University of Suffolk and Suffolk Mind see this initial collaboration as being the first stepping-stone into a longer-term partnership. Health and Wellbeing is one of the University’s areas of distinctiveness and they envisage lots of potential collaborations going forwards. They have already submitted a joint application for equipment relating to a mental health study and are exploring other funding calls.
In addition, Suffolk Mind are one of the partners of The Integrated Care Academy (ICA), the first of its kind in this country, an exciting partnership between the University of Suffolk, the Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System, Suffolk County Council and Healthwatch Suffolk and others from the voluntary and community sector.
Kobe Borich, Service Development Manager at Suffolk Mind “The final product will increase the reach and impact of Suffolk Mind’s work, helping more people to learn about what their emotional needs are and how to get them met in order to improve their wellbeing.”
Jon Neal, CEO at Suffolk Mind “The result of this partnership means that Suffolk Mind is in a position to make an even bigger difference to people’s lives. By making our content so much more widely available and accessible, we will be able to reach so many more people in ways that were not available to us before.
“For example, while we will continue to deliver training in person or interactively online, the new eLearning platform will enable people to continue to top up their training whenever they want to.
“We’ll have a route to them for new and updated content, snapshots of best practice, new tools, hot topics…there will be so many options open to us to enable people to continue learning about the mental health of themselves and those around them.
“We now have an independently tested prototype that we have confidence in, and it has the kudos that comes with university-based research and evaluation.”
Emma Wakeling, Head of Business Development and Knowledge Exchange at University of Suffolk “We were pleased to be a collaborator on this initiative. Health and wellbeing is one of the University of Suffolk’s areas of distinctiveness. This platform will be an important resource for Suffolk Mind, increasing engagement with key mental health services for many more people in our region, which connects with our civic university mission to make a real difference in the community.”
Watch a video case study here
University of Suffolk Press Office