Int J Ment Health Syst. 2022 Sep 2;16(1):45. doi: 10.1186/s13033-022-00555-6.
BACKGROUND: A nation-wide mental health peer support initiative was established in college and vocational schools in Singapore. The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to develop and validate a 20-item self-report instrument, the Mental Health Peer Support Questionnaire (MHPSQ), to assess young adults’ perceived knowledge and skills in mental health peer support.
METHODS: We administered the questionnaire to 102 students who were trained as peer supporters, and 306 students who were not trained as peer supporters (denoted as non-peer supporters), in five college and vocational schools. Exploratory factor analysis and descriptive statistics were conducted. Cronbach’s α was used to assess reliability, and independent sample t-tests to assess criterion validity.
RESULTS: Exploratory factor analysis indicated a three-factor structure with adequate internal reliability (discerning stigma [α = .76], personal mastery [α = .77], skills in handling challenging interpersonal situations [α = .74]; overall scale [α = .74]). Consistent with establishing criterion validity, peer supporters rated themselves as significantly more knowledgeable and skilled than non-peer supporters on all items except two: (1) letting peer support recipients make their own mental health decisions, and (2) young adults’ self-awareness of feeling overwhelmed. Peer supporters who had served the role for a longer period of time had significantly higher perceived awareness of stigma affecting mental health help-seeking. Peer supporters who had reached out to more peer support recipients reported significantly higher perceived skills in handling challenging interpersonal situations, particularly in encouraging professional help-seeking and identifying warning signs of suicide.
CONCLUSIONS: The MHPSQ may be a useful tool for obtaining a baseline assessment of young adults’ perceived knowledge and skills in mental health peer support, prior to them being trained as peer supporters. This could facilitate tailoring of training programs based on young adults’ initial understanding of mental health peer support. Subsequent to young adults’ training and application of skills, the MHPSQ could also be applied to evaluate the effectiveness of peer programs and mental health training.