Results of the BeanBagChat (BBC) Evaluation Project

Stella's Place Assessment & Treatment Centre

The literature has established some degree of support for the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary effectiveness of online peer support; however, few high quality studies exist. Another challenge is the over-saturation of commercially available mental health apps, which often lack empirical evidence, lack adherence to standards, and have inadequate or unclear data protection measures. BeanBangChat is an online peer support app for iOS and Android. Using this app, participants can chat with a peer supporter from Stella’s Place about challenges they are facing, skills they want to understand better, mental health and wellness resources that may be supportive, and any recommendations for programming at Stella’s Place. The support offered is based on Peer Support values, including strengths-based recovery, empowerment, trauma-informed care, and anti-oppression. The BeanBangChat app was evaluated to examine program integrity, informing possible adaptations to the program and training materials, as well as measuring the program impact on participants.


Sarah Lindsay
Sarah (she/her) has a background in social work, and most of her career has been with LGBTQ communities and in the mental health and disability sectors. She is passionate about program evaluation and knowledge mobilization, working at Stella’s Place as the Evaluation Coordinator to improve evidence-based programming.  

Ashley Ward
Dr. Ashley Ward (she/they) completed her PhD in Psychological Science at X University. As the Research & Evaluation Manager at Stella’s Place, they infuse lived experiences with evidence-based approaches into their research, evaluation, and program development work. 

Nader Alasvand
Nader Alasvand (he/they) is the Access Manager for Stella’s Place. Having completed his MSW at York University, Nader has a social work background and has worked closely with Peer Support Workers in his career. He is leading the development of the peer ambassador team and programming at Stella’s Place.

Key takeaways

  • A mobile app providing live chat support to youth aged 16-29 in Toronto, first launched in 2017
    • Informed by research and co-designed with young adults who have lived experience with mental health
    • Wanted to provide a low barrier support platform for young adults to discuss whatever they’re going through in that moment
    • Users engage in a maximum of 45 minute conversations with an operator, discussing the concerns they are currently going through, along with a pre- and post-survey and additional resources they can use
  • Since its evaluation, BBC has shifted towards a clinically focused model
  • Emerging themes in discussion: relationship challenges with family and friends, identity and sexuality, school and work stress, experiences of abuse and trauma, etc
  • Conducted a mixed methods evaluation from November 2020 to July 2021 using a culturally responsive evaluation to center perspectives of diverse populations
    • The literature review explained promising results of e-mental health in youth populations because they have already been so accustomed to to using social media and the internet, and the anonymity of text-based services allows for users to feel comfortable with sharing their experiences sooner and more frequently than they would in face-to-face settings
  • Developed their knowledge mobilization plan with their young adults council to highlight key aspects of the BBC to reach different audience demographics
  • Qualitative data was collected through interviews with program staff and BBC participants and quantitative data was collected through pre- and post-chat surveys
    • Recorded data included demographic information; measure of hope, loneliness and mental health; and additional feedback
      • A majority of respondents were between the ages of 23-27 and were white or of European decent
      • High degree of social loneliness (not a surprise due to Covid-19)
      • High satisfaction levels were recorded in the post-survey and were likely to recommend it to a friend
    • Operators found conversations to flow more smoothly when they connected with users based on personal experiences
  • Staff suggested it would be beneficial if they had more paid time to decompress from shifts, especially during heavier topics, because they were likely dealing with the same concerns users were, and to avoid burnout

Key Learning Objectives (defined by presenters)

  1. Identify BeanBagChat (BBC) as a supportive app for youth and young adults seeking immediate support for their mental health concerns
  2. Summarize the BBC Evaluation Project results and knowledge mobilization plan
  3. Recognize the BBC app’s interface and navigate its primary functions

Key Themes

  1. Peer support
  2. E-mental health counseling

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