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College groups join forces to tackle poor mental health in largest clinical trial of its kind

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Activate Learning and NCG are joining forces to address the rising demand for mental health support for young people in education in what is the largest clinical trial of its kind.

The college groups are partnering with PsycApps Ltd to conduct one of the largest college-based Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) using cutting-edge mobile mental health app, eQuoo. eQuoo is a clinically-proven gamified app designed to improve student emotional health by tapping into skills that are shown to boost resilience and encourage personal growth, while reducing anxiety and depression.

The RCT will have a sample size exceeding 8,000 students across both college groups, with the initiative focusing on the mental health issues that contribute to non-attendance, students dropping out of college, behavioural issues and academic struggles. 

The trial will launch early in the New Year and will last until summer 2025. 

Gary Headland, CEO of Activate Learning, highlighted the significance of this new research.

He said:

“We are seeing a significant demand in the FE sector to support more and more young people who are struggling with mental ill health. We are continuing to build our data science capability and capacity and this very large RCT should provide useful information, intelligence and knowledge of value to Activate Learning and NCG, and we will be pleased to share the findings with professional colleagues across the sector.”

Elsbeth Tibbetts, Group Director of Student Experience and Safeguarding at Activate Learning, passionately highlighted the significance of this collaborative effort.

She said:

“The demand for mental health support among young adults is on the rise, with colleges still seeing the impact of the pandemic on our young people.  The mental health and wellbeing of our students is something we take incredibly seriously, and we see all the time how low mood and mental ill health can impact on their achievement. I think this is a really bold approach we are taking with NCG by identifying and utilising eQuoo as an effective and engaging evidence-based tool and I hope it’s one that will have enormous benefits for our students.”

This move comes in the wake of the Association of Colleges (AoC) Mental Health Survey Report 2023, which revealed that more than 60% of colleges in the UK have seen an increase in demand for mental health support. The report also highlighted how demand continued to outstrip the supply of services and that greater access to community health services and in-college support was needed. Research by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has also found that 70% of young people aged 16 to 24 are using social media platforms as their primary source of information about mental health.

This presents Activate Learning and NCG with an opportunity to create an intervention that can be both delivered at scale and via a medium that students prefer. 

Liz Bromley, CEO of NCG, said NCG also recognised that the mental health of learners was vital to their successes.

She said:

“At NCG, we believe that the mental health and wellbeing of our students is crucial to their future success. Young people are facing real stress and mental pressures these days, which is why our NCG Guarantee ensures students across all of our colleges have access to the resources and initiatives that give them the tools they need to build mental resilience.I am pleased to be able to collaborate with another forward-thinking college group to tackle such an important issue and offer thousands of young people across the country access to an innovative solution that we hope will bring them enormous benefits.”

This was supported by Rachel Gibson, Assistant Director of Central Support Services at Newcastle College (part of NCG), who said:

“The mental health and wellbeing of our students is a key priority for all NCG colleges, and we have seen first-hand the huge impact that mental wellbeing has on learning and progression. All our colleges have dedicated support teams, but this app will allow students to proactively manage their emotional wellbeing and hopefully develop the skills they need to protect their mental health. We are looking forward to seeing what benefits it can give learners across our group.”

Silja Litvin, founder of eQuoo, said:

“Our app, eQuoo, has been through multiple clinical trials, but we’re especially excited about our collaboration with Activate Learning and NCG because it allows us to explore the game in an educational setting with a young audience. eQuoo is built to support adolescents and young adults, and the data from this trial will help us make the intervention at a preventative stage even more powerful.”

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