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The Ohio State University's feasibility study using Be Mindful to prevent and reduce work-related stress and investigate online recruitment.

Researchers at The Ohio State University are using Wellmind Health's Be Mindful mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) course to determine it's a feasible approach to preventing and reducing work-related stress among frontline child protection social workers (F-CPSWs).

Lead investigators, Oliver W. J. Beer and Dean Tom Gregoire, from the College of Social Work, The Ohio State University, undertook the research to better understand whether Be Mindful's online asynchronous mindfulness-based training was a feasible, acceptable, and potentially effective approach to addressing the impacts of work-related stress at the individual level. The research also addresses the challenges associated with traditional participant recruitment approaches by utilising social media platforms (SMPs).

The importance of the research extends beyond the direct positive effects that stress reduction has on F-CPSWs personally as there are multi-level impacts. Organisations in which staff are experiencing high levels of work-related stress are prone to issues with productivity and retention, affecting service continuity and skills bases, and directly impacting vulnerable service users who are at risk of being assigned multiple caseworkers over time.

Be Mindful was selected as the intervention due to its mindfulness element and Oliver's previous experience of the course. Having personally completed Be Mindful while expanding his knowledge of online interventions, Oliver was impressed by its structure, flexibility, previous study findings, online delivery, and integration of the foundational elements of mindfulness, plus its regulatory approval and use within the NHS, since enhanced by the course's recent DTAC certification.

This feasibility study utilises a sequential explanatory design. Phase one covered the feasibility, acceptability, and potential effectiveness of the Be Mindful programme in terms of stress prevention and reduction for F-CPSWs. Phase two included extensive interviewing of participants about their experiences, impacts, facilitators and barriers to engagement, and content delivery to contextualize results from phase one.

In addition to GAD-7, PHQ-9, and PSS outcomes measures incorporated into the Be Mindful course, other measures such as Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) were included at the research design phase to establish whether there was a correlation between levels of mindfulness and perceived stress. One of this research project’s hypotheses was that participation in the Be Mindful programme would result in lower levels of perceived stress and increased levels of mindfulness. The researchers also examined whether completion of the Be Mindful programme could be associated with an improvement in F-CPSWs general health and wellbeing.

The feasibility of online recruitment using social media platforms (SMPs) is a key element of the study. Oliver believes that utilising technology as a recruitment approach is a skill that contemporary researchers require:

"I've been studying recruiting using social media platforms since 2015. Traditional approaches to recruitment present challenges for researchers; so, leveraging technology and using strategies that marketers use in consumer research helps enable the recruitment of small sample frames in a timely and cost-effective manner. The biggest advantage of SMPs is that you can access harder-to-reach populations who are active in online spaces through targeted ads, based on demographics or online behaviours or interests."

Previous research by Oliver and colleagues suggests that recruiting and providing employment-based interventions via social media affords participants greater confidentiality. Results from the current research project will be submitted for publication this year. Oliver has plans to replicate the study, with some changes to the design, with child welfare workers officers in the United States, and to undertake research with the University of Plymouth, where Oliver is an Honorary University Research Fellow, again employing Be Mindful, looking at the effects on the stress of a broader range of social workers outside F-CPSWs.

Further details of the study can be found here.

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