EPISODE 7

The Importance of Program Evaluation in Mental Health Service 

CONTRIBUTOR

Jennifer Graham

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>> On this episode of elevate evaluate, I'll be discussing a personal perspective to the importance of program evaluation. When I was 17 years old, I tried to take my own life. My brother, who was trained as an EMT asked all the right questions. He made me feel comfortable about talking about the crisis situation, and he got me the help that I needed.

 

Fast forward 13 years later, my brother, the one who saved me, killed himself. Not only was this most immense pain, but also it was another turning point for me, where I decided to dedicate the rest of my life to helping others with suicidal thoughts. This has led me on a journey, the journey on which I found the Mental Health First Aid training course.

 

Hello, my name is Danielle and I am a survivor. Program evaluation is important, so much so that in this scenario it could mean life and death. It could even have the confidence or help with confidence to help someone else to choose to live. Not all programs involve such depth however, each program has importance, importance that can be seen and results of an evaluation.

 

So I began to ask myself, are there other people who use Mental Health First Aid to intervene in these crisis situations? Are there other people like me who use the tools provided in Mental Health First Aid to prevent other suicide? Let me just say that this curiosity is a great first step to learning program evaluation and there is a lot to learn.

 

I'll try to break it down by using a brief description of the process by using my own personal experience and interest in the Mental Health First Aid program. In order to begin a program evaluation, we have to choose a program, but how do we do that? Not everyone is as passionate about suicide prevention as I am, and that's quite a right.

 

There are many other programs that can be evaluated, first we have to ask these five simple questions. Can the results of the evaluation influenced decisions about the program? Can the evaluation be done in a time useful or a lot it? Is the program significant enough to merit an evaluation?

 

Is the program performance viewed as problematic? And where is the program and its development stage? And then we and I say we, I mean you the listener myself, us as program evaluators, we take an initial look which involves, we need to know if the program is doing well and producing the positive outcomes or results.

 

We can also ask can programs be improved if these programs are not quite reaching their goals, how can they be improved to accomplish those goals that were originally set? Funding decisions for foundations and organizations, and public entities need to know if the program is doing well based on the funds allotted, and are they being used appropriately?

 

By using program evaluation these entities can demonstrate that they are using those funds responsibly for the program activities and outcomes. This is where my personal curiosity came into play because I wanted to know if Mental Health First Aid training, that program had an effect on the overall suicide rate.

 

I also wanted to know if the training program lessened crisis situations involving mental health and substance abuse. But also most importantly, is it cost efficient? Is the program cost efficient? Otherwise known as all these questions can be known as evaluation questions. So how am I gonna answer these questions?

 

I need to collect the data, I need to analyze the data, and I need to be able to present the results. This process is one, two, three voila, nope. But seriously, program evaluation has much more detail. But of course that requires a full course to understand and not just one episode.

 

Let's just start with a brief example. So since I wanted to know if the training lesson crisis situations, I can collect surveys from participants of the program at the beginning of training at the end of training, and then six months afterwards. This data collection method can easily be implemented as the instructors already give participant surveys, so the survey can be tailored to suit the needs of the evaluation questions that I had.

 

So that's super easy, right? Well after the data is collected, it needs to be analyzed. So we need to know what type of variables are they nominal, ordinal, interval, ratio? Again, the analysis goes into more detail in a statistics course but this is just a general overview. What type of statistics are we gonna use?

 

Are we gonna use descriptive, I'm sorry, descriptive statistics which summarizes the group's data? Are you gonna use inferential statistics which uses hypothesis testing and regression analysis? I know bear with me it's a lot. This isn't a tax law class and I'm trying to keep it simple. So after all of the data is analyzed, we may have an answer to our question.

 

Does the data show a positive outcome to the question? Does it show a negative outcome? Or it might even show no statistical difference at all? But that's the great thing about program evaluation, we can ask the questions geared towards different categories. These categories include needs assessment, cost efficiency, program outcomes, program design and process evaluation, and then we analyze the data that we collect, to answer any of those questions.

 

In this case, I know that you're probably all wondering, what the outcome is of my evaluation of the mental health first aid training, but I'm sorry to say that I have to wait a whole year, to have all the data that I need to be able to analyze correctly.

 

And so I am hoping for a positive result. But of course, this is my bias and that's also important to know when conducting the program evaluation. So I hope you enjoyed this brief overview of the importance of program evaluation. Remember, you guys are all worth it and programs such as this maybe saving lives but only time will tell.

 

Thanks so much for your time and I hope you all have an excellent day and good luck in your studies.