Towards social inclusion through lifelong learning in mental health : Analysis of change in the lives of the emilia project service users
Background: The application of formal lifelong learning to enhance social inclusion in mental health is rarely investigated in terms of change in the lives of service users on a cross-country comparative scale. Aims: This study was aimed at examining changes in key areas of the lives of mental health service users across eight European mental health sites. Method: A before and after case study design was applied. Users of mental health services who participated in the lifelong leaning interventions reviewed the changes in key areas of their lives at baseline and 10 months later, through the thematic analysis of qualitative data collected in semi-structured interviews (27 and 21, respectively) and self-reports (138 and 99, respectively). In-depth examples from one site are provided. Results: Most users reported positive changes in the areas of training and social networks, with a sizeable minority moving onto unpaid and paid employment. In addition most users reported active planning for job search and other goals. Obstacles that were highlighted included the negative effects of having a mental illness, difficulties in close relationships and economic disadvantages. Conclusions: The lifelong learning intervention offered within an EU Framework 6 project to mental health service users in eight demonstration sites had a largely positive impact on key areas of their lives at 10 months, though obstacles remained which may be less amenable to change by social interventions.