A Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) run by Kings College London and funded by the National Institute of Health Service Research (NIHR) has been conducted in ten schools in South London in 2014-2015 (Brown et al., 2019). Student mental health outcomes in five schools following delivery of the DISCOVER programme were compared with students in five comparison schools, whose students were awaiting the programme. The results provided good evidence that after attending DISCOVER, students’ anxiety and depression reduced and emotional resilience improved. Further details of this RCT and our current research evaluations are available on request from the DISCOVER programme lead, Dr Irene Sclare on irene.sclare@slam.nhs.uk.

The DISCOVER programme has been delivered in over 50 schools in South London and South of England to date, including all sixth forms within the Harris Federation. Evaluation and student feedback are embedded in the approach Students and teachers have also identified that DISCOVER has had an impact on specific school and home behaviour and attitudes, including:

  • Increased ability to focus on and prioritise school work
  • Improved time management and problem solving
  • Improved self-esteem and confidence
  • Improved capacity to deal with anxiety provoking situations
  • Improved interactions with peers and family
  • Better sleep and more daytime energy

What students have said

If I ever start to panic or get stressed, I think of it differently now. I think this is just stress, I know how to deal with stress.

DISCOVER helped me to learn more about myself, to be less stressed, tired, and overworked, and happier with  things in general.

DISCOVER has made my plans for my future more realistic and achievable.

What teachers have said

I thought you were going to come in and do a very well-organised workshop, and you did. It was absolutely fantastic.

Having a sense of confidence in you as providers feels very important, and a sense of the care that was taken with the process of setting up workshops.

These sorts of things (anxiety and low mood) get overlooked, especially in 16 to 18 year olds...everyone things, 'they have done their GCSEs, they're fine'

1. It helped us show that we were taking mental health seriously. 2. The feedback about students was absolutely invaluable 3. It added a desperately needed first layer of support for students. 4. Incredibly helpful to have professional advice on hand. 5. This was all in the context of regular and helpful dialogue with effective and professional individuals - thank you.

It is extremely useful to have experts who can from outside sources who can navigate the myriad of local services, and, understand the links for students outside of the borough. It is also helpful to have this blended with a comment on learning needs.

The DISCOVER team were completely invested in our students and their needs and also to work, as far as possible, with key staff at the school. They communicated brilliantly with both staff and students. They shared their expertise and offered supportive advice to me which has supported my own work with the students whom I support. Ruth and Sara presented brilliantly to the sixth form - we were so pleased that even some students, who were off our radar in respect of their emotional needs, plucked up the courage and reached out for support. It is important for schools to welcome new people to the students as this can sometimes lead to a breakthrough as we have seen with a number of students.

The day workshop had a deep impact on the students - even now, when checking up with a number of these students during lockdown, they are practicing the techniques that they worked through, are still using recommended apps and some have successfully adopted clear routines during this difficult time away from school. A few of the students have reported to me that they are maintaining better communication with their parents which is a fantastic outcome.

I think such outreach programs are vitally important - offering the support within the school, encouraging students themselves to put themselves forward, having an intensive day of support and also having a clear program for follow up. I have had good feedback from the parents who were contacted - they have seen a real improvement in communication with their daughters.

Teaching students skills they can use and do on their own to help support their well-being - they really do use it! the review meetings were great! They really open up about what they are experiencing and helps us as a school to support them more specifically.

Students over time became more open about communicating their feelings and trusting, I think in combination with the program and having the support of the pastoral team alongside it.

Thank you. This program has been so helpful and has helped bring to light how great the need to support mental health and well-being is in this year group.


Brown, J. S., Blackshaw, E., Stahl, D., Fennelly, L., McKeague, L., Sclare, I., & Michelson, D. (2019). School-based early intervention for anxiety and depression in older adolescents: a feasibility randomised controlled trial of a self-referral stress management workshop programme (“DISCOVER”). Journal of adolescence, 71, 150-161.

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