duz txting wrk? Program Evaluation of BeanBagChat (BBC) Peer Support App

Stella’s Place is an integrated, innovative, and impactful service hub that has been co-designed and implemented with young adults to address their mental health circumstances and needs. The BeanBagChat (BBC) mobile app platform is easily accessible to Toronto youth and young adult users and Stella’s Place participants (ages 16-29 years) with increasing uptake since the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic. This presentation will review our Frayme Virtual Innovations in Care-funded evaluation approach, our knowledge mobilization plan, and our preliminary findings. We will also provide attendees with a demonstration of BBC as well as our integrated outcome survey for program participants. Our presentation will enable community organizations and other stakeholders to understand how Stella’s Place planned and executed a robust co-designed evaluation and knowledge mobilization framework, and how a text-based peer support service can be an effective, low-barrier, responsive source of support toward young adults and their mental health.

Presenters and slide deck

Allison Dunning, Peer Initiatives Manager, Stella's Place

Allison Dunning (she/her) is the Peer Initiatives Manager at Stella's Place, and a Certified Peer Support Mentor with Peer Support Canada. Allison has extensive experience in planning, delivering, evaluating and overseeing the operations of Peer Support programs in community, private and hospital based settings. Allison loves working with stakeholders to figure out what the need is, and how Peer Support services may be able to help meet that need, and dedicates her time to collaborating with Peer Support Workers to work through the challenges that come up when working alongside staff from various disciplines, and how to navigate the scope of the role in different settings.

Jheanelle Anderson, Evaluation Assistant, Stella's Place

Jheanelle Anderson is an Evaluation Assistant at Stella’s Place working from a culturally responsive and anti-racist lens in the evaluation of the BeanBagChat app. She is also a Research Assistant at The Centre for Research & Innovation for Black Survivors of Homicide Victims (The CRIB) advancing research and policy relevant to the surviving family and friends of Black homicide victims and assisting in the development of culturally responsive supports and services to better serve this population. Her research focuses on the intersections of immigration, ableism and anti-Black racism within Canada. She is interested in amplifying the voices of immigrants with disabilities to achieve policy-level changes for inclusive service supports through a Disability Justice lens. Jheanelle currently serves as Co-Chair of Disability Justice Network of Ontario’s Advisory Committee, Member of the National Accessibility Initiative Advisory Committee at OCASI, and Policy Analyst at ÀṢẸ Community Foundation for Black Canadians with Disabilities.

Sarah Lindsay, Evaluation Coordinator, Stella's Place

Sarah (she/her) is the Evaluation Coordinator of the Bean Bag Chat app at Stella’s Place. Sarah holds an MSW from York University. Her lived experience with mental health and background as a social worker inform her approach to research and practice. Prior to her role at Stella's Place, Sarah has worked primarily in research, program development and evaluation in community organizations in the mental health, disability, LGBT2SQ+ and HIV sectors.

Aranie Vijayaratnam, Evaluation Assistant, Stella's Place

Aranie is an Evaluation Assistant for the BBC app evaluation. She holds an Honours degree in Biology from the University of Toronto and prior to working with Stella's Place, has worked with the John Howard Society of Ontario and the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. Aranie is passionate about policies and economics of families, youth and children accessing health services.


Key Learnings

  • The BeanBagChat (BBC) mobile app offers youth and young adults immediate, low-barrier peer support to address their mental health concerns.
  • Our approach to co-design means youth and young adults are active all stages of BBC’s development, execution, and evaluation. In the context of evaluation, members of the Young Adult Council are playing a key role in the development and execution of our knowledge mobilization plan (KMb), and guiding the selection of qualitative and quantitative tools used in our evaluation.
  • This evaluation is using a Culturally Responsive Evaluation (CRE) approach in an effort to center the needs and lived experiences of youth and young adults. Our KMb plan was developed in collaboration with members of the Young Adult Council Members at Stella’s Place, who took great interest in what key messages we want to share, and how we want to share them. Leveraging different social media platforms to reach different key stakeholders was identified as a strong strategy for disseminating our findings in an accessible manner.

Thoughts from those with Lived/Living Expertise

What are some of the highlights?

  • The presentation highlighted how research and youth co-design processes provided valuable insights into the construction and evaluation of the app.
  • The comprehensive plans for knowledge mobilization considered how to reach many demographics, such as youth (TikTok), academics/mental health advocates  (Twitters), and older adults (Facebook). Also of note was appropriate consideration of marginalized youth groups and funders in the process. 

How can information gained be used? 

  • The insights from the culturally responsive framework and evaluations could be used to help minimize barriers to access, and develop apps that act as the first step to accessing the mental health system.

What are the implications?

  • Social media knowledge mobilization and peer support efforts can be used to help decrease stigmatization of mental health support for the broader public, as peer support may be a more inviting form of mental health support that differs from a more medicalized approach.
  • Rural areas may especially benefit from technology-based peer support.

What would you like to know more about?

  • Issues surrounding how the app intends to inform users of their rights to privacy, confidentiality, and consent throughout the data collection timeline, especially if data is collected when users may be in distress.
  • How the app hopes to address drawbacks of text-specific peer support, such as the lack of face-to-face interaction. 

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