Research explores relationship between mental toughness and resilience

Anna McDougall (pictured) is an Analyst at Knowsley Council on Merseyside.  Here she explains the research she is conducting as part of the Research Internships Scheme hosted by the CLAHRC NWC.

“This study is all to do with exploring the links between mental toughness and resilience in young people. As part of this study we also want to improve awareness in school about mental toughness and mental wellbeing. This study has links to the HeadStart Knowsley programme that is currently underway in Knowsley. HeadStart Knowsley is focused on building and improving resilience in local young people. Findings from this research will help HeadStart Knowsley by showing what activities improve mental toughness and resilience in young people.

To achieve the aims of the study, levels of mental toughness and resilience will be measured before and after the HeadStart activity takes place. The HeadStart activity in St Aidan’s Catholic Primary School is Judo Education. Judo Education aims to improve children in their day to day life and help them lead it in a more disciplined and respectful manner by teaching them the physical sport of judo along with morals, discipline and respect. Children will be selected at random by the head teacher at the school. Not all of the students involved in the study will take part in Judo Education as the study will have an ‘experimental’ group, those taking part in the activity, and a ‘control’ group, those not taking part in the activity. All students however will be asked to complete a resilience (READ) and a mental toughness questionnaire (MTQ48) before and after the intervention has taken place. This will enable us to see whether the scores have changed for those children who were involved in Judo Education and to see what the relationship is being mental toughness and resilience. I will also be conducting a few short interviews with participants who took part in the Judo Education to see how they experienced it and also to see how they found the measures that were used on them. This will help with the HeadStart Knowlsey programme going forward into phase 3."

The HeadStart programme

The HeadStart programme aims to develop ways of dealing with mental health issues before they become deep-rooted problems. Focussing primarily on schools, the HeadStart partners will offer a range of  pproaches, including peer mentoring, mental health ‘first aid’ training, online portals and special resilience lessons helping pupils aged 10-14 feel they have support at in the classroom as well as at home and tackling the stigma that can often surround the issues of mental health.

UPDATE - 2016 from Anna

What have I learnt?

Through my internship with the CLAHRC NWC, I have gained a real experience of research and the different processes that are needed in order to carry out a piece of research from start to finish. This experience has enabled me to learn new skills and feel more confident in my abilities. I have been able to develop knowledge around research approval systems and the various tools needed for data analysis, such as SPSS. By organising a research project from the planning stages to dissemination, it has allowed me to really hone my organisation skills and also opened my eyes to the challenges that can arise from with working in collaboration with external organisations and providers.   

The support and advice offered by experienced researchers and academics through the internship was invaluable. As I do not come from a background in research I was particularly dependent on my academic supervisors and researchers at the CLAHRC NWC to guide me through the processes that were essential in getting the project off the ground, such as the ethics process. The practical workshops offered through the internship meant that I was able to learn new techniques for data collection and analysis, which I was able to put into practice during my project.

As my research was attached to the HeadStart Knowsley programme that is currently taking place in Knowsley, findings from my research have been shared with the programme. It is hoped that some of the recommendations that came as a result of the research will be acknowledged and applied as the programme moves forward into its third phase. 

As aforementioned, the results from my research have been shared with the HeadStart Knowsley team and it is hoped that the findings will help the programme going forward into phase 3.

Conducting this research project reaffirmed an already existent interest in mental health and wellbeing and looking into what can be done to promote early intervention and prevention, especially for children and young people. Through the project I was able to appreciate just how important it is to ensure that children and young people have the opportunities to improve and maintain good mental health and wellbeing. It also allowed me to realise just how important it is that teachers and parents have an understanding of the importance of mental health and wellbeing for young people, as well as for themselves. Going forward I would be interested in actively promoting mental health and wellbeing amongst young people in some way or another. This is something that could be achieved in my current role at Knowsley Council through evaluating the impact of various projects aimed towards improving mental health, working alongside schools or community groups.  


More articles     Posted on: 17 May 2016