Plain English Summary
Background and study aims
Young people in the UK report anxiety, loneliness and a lack of control as immediate impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. Given the current need for physical distancing, digital tools to support young people’s mental health and wellbeing (MHWB) during this time are urgently needed. Equally, it is critical that we involve young people as active stakeholders in the design and delivery of such interventions, rather than passive ‘recipients’ of support. Indeed, in consultations with 14-25 years old in the UK, peer-to-peer support was ranked as one of the most desirable methods of support for MHWB, and evidence shows these interventions can be effective.
Most young people consulted expressed high motivation to support their peers, and aspired to develop skills to do so effectively. However, few peer support training courses are available to young people online. Together with a peer support charity and young people, researchers plan to co-produce and deliver online training to equip young people with skills to provide peer support and an opportunity to share experiences with a community of peer supporters.
This study will evaluate whether this training improves young people's ability to support others during this time, including motivation to provide peer support, perceived support giving skills, frequency of support provided, compassion to others, and connectedness to peers, mental wellbeing and emotional symptoms, and self-efficacy and civic engagement, relative to a wait-list control group. This study will also explore young people’s experiences of the training and self-reported impacts. Therefore, the project responds to young people’s expressed resource needs and to gaps in the existing evidence on the benefits of digital training for peer supporters. The project will focus on young people aged 16-18 years, experiencing significant disruption to their education or early working life.
Who can participate?
Young people aged 16-18 years who are resident in the UK
What does the study involve?
Participants will be randomly allocated to peer support training or a wait-list control group. Participants allocated to peer support training will complete an online training course, consisting of five sessions (4 hours per session) delivered over a period of 5 days. Outcomes for both arms will be assessed 1 week later, and participants allocated to peer support training will also complete follow-up measures after 2, 3 and 4 weeks.
What are the possible benefits and risks of participating?
Participants will take part in co-produced week-long online peer support training targeted at the COVID-19 crisis and identified needs of UK 16-18-year-olds. There are no known risks of participating in the training.
Where is the study run from?
The study is run from the University of Oxford, Department of Psychiatry. Training will be delivered online by YouthEra, a non-profit organisation with extensive experience in youth empowerment and peer support training programmes for adolescents
When is the study starting and how long is it expected to run for?
April to July 2020
Who is funding the study?
Economic, Social, Cultural, & Environmental Impacts of COVID-19: Urgent Response Fund (UK)
Who is the main contact?
Dr Gabriela Pavarini
Dr Gabriela Pavarini
University of Oxford
Department of Psychiatry
Peer support training for adolescents during the COVID-19 outbreak: a pilot randomised controlled trial
Does peer support training improve adolescents’ ability to support others during the COVID-19 outbreak, relative to a wait-list?
Approved 22/05/2020, University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Interdivisional Research Ethics Committee (Research Services, University of Oxford, Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JD, UK; +44(0)1865 616577; email@example.com), ref: R69810/RE001
Pilot randomised controlled trial
Primary study design
Secondary study design
Randomised controlled trial
Quality of life
Patient information sheet
Available on the study website: https://www.oxneurosec.com/peersupport
Peer support during the COVID-19 outbreak
After providing consent and completing baseline measures, an independent researcher will randomise participants to Peer Support Training or wait-list using randomisation software. Participants allocated to Peer Support Training will complete an online training course, consisting of five sessions (4 hours per session) delivered over a period of 5 days. Outcomes for both arms will be assessed 1-week post-randomisation, and participants randomised to Peer Support Training will also complete follow-up measures at 2, 3 and 4 weeks post-randomisation.
Primary outcome measure
1. Motivation to provide peer support, perceived support giving skills, and frequency of support provided, measured using Adolescent Social Connection & Coping During COVID Scale Items at 1 week post-randomisation
2. Compassion towards others, measured using Compassionate Engagement and Action Scale-Compassion for Others Scale at 1 week post-randomisation
3. Connectedness to peers, measured using Inclusion of Other in the Self Scale at 1 week post-randomisation
Secondary outcome measures
1. Mental wellbeing, measured using Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale at 1 week post-randomisation
2. Emotional symptoms, measured using Strengths and Difficulties-Emotional symptoms subscale at 1 week post-randomisation
3. Self-efficacy, measured using General Self-Efficacy Scale at 1 week post-randomisation
4. Civic engagement, measured using Civic Engagement Scale-Civic Behaviours & Civic Attitudes Scales at 1 week post-randomisation
5. Participant experiences of Peer Support Training, measured using responses to open-ended questions at 1 week post-randomisation among participants allocated to Peer Support Training
6. Intentions to use peer support skills, measured using bespoke questions developed for this study at 1, 2, 3, 4 weeks post-randomisation among participants allocated to Peer Support Training
7. Motivation to provide peer support, perceived support giving skills, and frequency of support provided, measured using Adolescent Social Connection & Coping During COVID Scale Items at 2, 3, 4 weeks post-randomisation among participants allocated to Peer Support Training
8. Connectedness to peers, measured using Inclusion of Other in the Self Scale at 2, 3, 4 weeks post-randomisation among participants allocated to Peer Support Training
Overall trial start date
Overall trial end date
Reason abandoned (if study stopped)
Participant inclusion criteria
1. 16–18 years old
2. UK residents
3. Sufficient English level to be able to take the course
4. Able to complete training and measures independently
5. Access to Wi-Fi for the duration of the course
6. Access to a computer, camera and speakers for the duration of the course
7. Happy to be randomly assigned to one of two iterations of the training course
8. Consent to participate (this includes those aged 16–17 who are considered ‘competent youths’ as per BPG 04) and provided baseline measures
Target number of participants
Total final enrolment
Participant exclusion criteria
Does not meet inclusion criteria
Recruitment start date
Recruitment end date
Countries of recruitment
Trial participating centre
University of Oxford
Department of Psychiatry Warneford Hospital
Economic, Social, Cultural, & Environmental Impacts of COVID-19: Urgent Response Fund
Funding Body Type
Funding Body Subtype
Results and Publications
Publication and dissemination plan
1. The full study protocol is not yet available but will be uploaded to the registration prior to study completion.
2. Planned publication of the study results in a high-impact peer-reviewed journal.
IPD sharing statement
The data-sharing plans for the current study are unknown and will be made available at a later date.
Intention to publish date
Participant level data
To be made available at a later date
Basic results (scientific)
- ISRCTN99248812_QualitativeAnalysisPLan_03July2020.pdf Uploaded 06/07/2020