Developing Mental Health Peer Counselling Services for Undergraduate Students of a Nigerian University: A Pilot Study
Background: There is a wide spectrum of mental health/behavioural problems seen among college/university students world-wide. Less than half of those found to be affected by mental illness are opportune to receive treatment from mental health specialists. This treatment gap is a pervasive and on-going problem in the delivery of appropriate mental health care, and it is deemed to be a direct result of an acute shortage of mental health professionals, especially in low and middle income countries. Peer counselling is an effective way of addressing psychological issues in young people as they have been observed to first turn to one another for help in times of need or crisis. With the existing dearth of mental health professionals to provide these services there is a need to train mental health peer counsellors, and promote their involvement in managing college/university students with mental health or psychological issues.
Materials and Methods: The study took place at the University Health Service (Jaja Clinic), University of Ibadan and the participants were volunteer undergraduates. A quasi-experimental study, participants were recruited through an advertisement calling for volunteer trainees who filled the self-administered Socio-demographic, Eysenck personality (short-form), took part in focus group discussions, then a knowledge pretest questionnaire. They were trained using a mental health peer counselling training module and immediately thereafter had a knowledge post-test. Data was analysed using SPSS 21. Frequency distribution and tests of significance of relevant data was done.
Result: Twenty (20) student volunteers underwent training as mental health peer counsellors. The mean age of the participants was 20.2 (±2.6) years. There were 9 (45.0%) male and 11 (55.0%) female volunteers. The mean knowledge pretest score was 24.0 (±2.3) points while the mean knowledge posttest score was 27.5 (±1.2) points. Out of a total of 30 points, the minimum pretest score was 18, while the maximum pretest score was 28 points. The minimum post-test score was 26 points and the maximum post-test was 30 points. A paired t-test analysis of the pretest and posttest scores revealed a mean difference of 3.5 with a 95% confidence interval of 2.3 to 4.6. The test statistic t was 6.4 with a degree of freedom (df) of 19 and a p-value of 0.00.
Conclusion: This study provides evidence that the mental health peer counselling training programme is feasible. The study has also shown that training programmes to increase the knowledge base, skills and attitudes of volunteer mental health peer counsellors are effective and would likely go a long way to complement global efforts aimed at reducing the contribution of mental health issues to the global disease burden.