Evaluation of suicide prevention activities

11.4 MindMatters

Page last updated: January 2014

Background to MindMatters
The MindMatters evaluations
The MindMatters evaluation findings
Implications of the MindMatters evaluation findings
Key findings

11.4.1 Background to MindMatters

MindMatters was the national mental health initiative for secondary schools funded by DoHA and implemented by Principals Australia Institute (PAI). The MindMatters initiative delivered to December 2013 was a resource and professional development initiative which supported Australian secondary schools in promoting and protecting the mental health, resilience and social and emotional wellbeing of students. It involved professional workshops for classroom teachers, whole school planning workshops for leaders and school teams, other workshops and a range of resources. MindMatters aimed to:
  • Embed promotion, prevention and early intervention activities for mental health and wellbeing in Australian secondary schools
  • Enhance the development of school environments where young people feel safe, valued, engaged and purposeful
  • Help young people develop the social and emotional skills required to meet life’s challenges
  • Help school communities create a climate of positive mental health and wellbeing
  • Develop strategies to enable a continuum of support for students with additional needs in relation to mental health and wellbeing
  • Enable schools to better collaborate with families and the health sector.96
The MindMatters initiative is currently being redeveloped and a new program will be available in 2014.

11.4.2 The MindMatters evaluations

The following discussion focuses on the MindMatters initiative, from 2006 to 2013. It is informed primarily by two documents: the MindMatters Evaluation Report September 201097 and The Impact of MindMatters by State98 which is based on data collected through the Principals School Leadership Survey in 2011. Whilst a more comprehensive suite of evaluation reports (including case studies of individual schools) was completed between 2000 and 2005, they have not been reviewed here as they are outside the timeframes for the current NSPP evaluation.

11.4.3 The MindMatters evaluation findings

The following section outlines the key MindMatters evaluation findings based on the available reports.

The MindMatters Evaluation Report September 2010

The MindMatters Evaluation Report September 2010 assessed awareness and uptake of the MindMatters initiative, based on the administration of a brief questionnaire for school staff. The evaluators reported difficulties with engaging schools to complete the questionnaire: in total, 1,200 schools across Australia were contacted, with 166 participating in the survey. This low response rate has implications for the representativeness of the sample.
The key evaluation findings were:
  • Of those responding:
    • 98% of secondary schools were aware of the MindMatters initiative.
    • 66% of secondary schools were using at least some aspects of the MindMatters initiative, with government schools more likely to use MindMatters than non-government schools.
    • 77% of schools had used at least some aspect of MindMatters in the past three years.
  • In 68% of those schools using MindMatters, the program was the responsibility of an implementation team (suggesting a higher level of engagement with the program)
  • 65% of schools had used MindMatters as a curriculum resource
  • 38% of schools reported using MindMatters as their key organising resource for mental health promotion
  • 51% of schools reported using programs other than MindMatters for mental health promotion. In most cases, these schools were using the other program in addition to MindMatters. A wide range of programs were reported in the survey, but the only one listed in the evaluation report was beyondblue
  • 64% of schools reported that staff members had attended recent MindMatters professional development sessions.
The authors noted that the findings from this evaluation were largely consistent with those from the previous (2006) evaluation. Top of page

Impact of MindMatters by State

A 2011 survey of school principals by PAI assessed levels of satisfaction with MindMatters.99 Note that no information was provided regarding the sample size or response rate for this survey and, as such, the results should be interpreted with caution. The survey found that of the school leaders nationally:
  • 79% are satisfied or very satisfied with MindMatters providing strategies for classroom teachers in supporting mental health and wellbeing for students
  • 71% are satisfied or very satisfied with MindMatters contributing to providing knowledge, understanding and strategies specifically for high support needs students
  • 73% are satisfied or very satisfied with MindMatters building their own personal understanding of mental health and wellbeing
  • 79% are satisfied or very satisfied with MindMatters increasing knowledge and understanding of mental health and wellbeing of staff attending professional learning
  • 78% are satisfied or very satisfied with MindMatters providing Professional Development ideas used in their schools
  • 71% are satisfied or very satisfied with MindMatters assisting in dealing with staff issues in relation to their mental health and wellbeing
  • 80% are satisfied or very satisfied with MindMatters with the overall benefits it provides for staff, students and the school community. Top of page

11.4.4 Implications of the MindMatters initiative evaluation findings

The following considers the MindMatters initiative evaluation findings in terms of appropriateness, effectiveness and efficiency.


The widespread uptake of the MindMatters initiative by schools and the high levels of satisfaction of school leaders suggest that MindMatters was considered appropriate by its target audience. The delivery of mental health prevention, promotion and early intervention to secondary schools through the MindMatters initiative was based on the Health Promoting Schools Framework, and the WHO Comprehensive Mental Health Model, and on sound evidence concerning the capacity of schools to enhance protective factors.100

The curriculum materials focused on issues such as resilience, loss and grief, bullying and harassment, understanding of mental illness and reduction of stigma. Notably, the issue of suicide was not dealt with directly in the program. This is a prudent approach given that there is currently a lack of evidence that school-based programs that focus on raising awareness about suicide are beneficial and not harmful.101 There is also some evidence that MindMatters can be successfully adapted and implemented in schools with high numbers of students from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, as it provides sufficient flexibility to enable schools to take ownership of the program.102


Based on the evaluation reports available, it is not possible to comment on the extent to which the MindMatters initiative has influenced help-seeking behaviour or measures of mental health (or suicide rates) within the student population during the period 2006-13. However, the level of uptake of the initiative suggests that MindMatters may have assisted schools in creating an environment that is supportive of mental health. It should also be noted that as a population health intervention (as compared with mental health clinical interventions), a program such as MindMatters has the capacity to achieve large collective benefits, although the benefits to the individual may be small and difficult to measure.103


Based on the evaluation reports available to inform this report, it is not possible to comment on the extent to which the MindMatters initiative has been delivered efficiently, or if it represents value for money. Top of page

Key findings

MindMatters was a national mental health promotion initiative for secondary schools that addressed some of the risk and protective factors for suicide. It had high levels of uptake and acceptance across Australian schools and appears to be an appropriate intervention. The evaluation reports produced to date (from 2006 to 2012) do not address the effectiveness or efficiency of MindMatters.

96 MindMatters, 'About MindMatters', accessed 2 April 2013.
97 Australian Council for Educational Research, MindMatters Evaluation Report, ACER, Melbourne, 2010.
98 Principals Australia Institute, Impact of MindMatters by State, 2011, PAI, Sydney, 2013. Provided to AHA by PAI via email, 2 April 2013. This document is expected to be available from the MindMatters website shortly.
99 PAI, Impact of MindMatters by State.
100 T Hazell, K Vincent, T Waring et al, 'The Challenges of Evaluating National Mental Health Promotion Programs in Schools: A case study using the Evaluation of MindMatters', International Journal of Mental Health Promotion, vol 4, no 4, 2002, pp21-27.
101 Beautrais et al, 'Effective Strategies for Suicide Prevention in New Zealand'.
102 Closing the Gap Clearinghouse, Strategies and practices for promoting the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Resource Sheet 19, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Australian Institute of Family Studies, Canberra, 2013.
103 L Rowling, 'School mental health promotion: MindMatters as an example of mental health reform', Health Promotion Journal of Australia, vol 18, no 3, 2007, pp229-235.