Aware Programme Brings Reduction in Depression and Anxiety

(Pictured L-R ) Dr. Claire Hayes, Clinical Director, Aware; George Hook; Michelle Mahon, Corporate Responsibility Manager, Tesco Ireland and Prof. Chris Williams

Chris Williams Press Launch February 2014 A

A community-based group programme currently being delivered throughout Ireland by Aware under the name Life Skills and funded by the Tesco Charity of the Year partnership, has shown significant reductions in depression and anxiety as well as improvements in social function. The results, which were identified in a Scottish study led by Professor Chris Williams, Professor of Psychosocial Psychiatry at the University of Glasgow, showed that the Life Skills programme, based on principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), is effective in terms of impact on mood, cost-effective and can also provide an alternative treatment option for use in primary care and community settings.

Speaking to media in Dublin today, Prof. Williams said that since this study is the first to evaluate self-help resources based on principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), delivered with low intensity support or guidance via short, weekly, face to face group classes, the results are important: “59.6% of those who attended the weekly 90-minute sessions as part of the Scottish trial now scored below 10 (the clinical cut-off for depression) at six month follow-up, compared with 17.4% at the start of the trial – meaning that a significant percentage had moved from moderate-severe depression categories on the PHQ9 to ‘mild’ or ‘none’. This study demonstrated that these classes delivered within a community setting are effective in terms of impact on mood, cost effective and also acceptable in the management of depression and anxiety. The community-based recruitment methods used may also provide an alternative route of help for people who, for whatever reason, are not engaging with the health service.”

Dr. Claire Hayes, Clinical Director of Aware, welcomed the findings, which add to results from independent evaluations already conducted by Aware on a number of phases of the Life Skills programme. “From May 2012 to December 2013, 2,125 people across Ireland completed the six-week programme and we saw some very encouraging results. In Phase Two of the programme [delivered in February 2013] there was a 31% increase in the number of people who reported having no feelings of depression using the PHQ9 at the end of the programme. 20% of participants reported having ‘severe’ anxiety in Session One, with no-one reporting this after they had completed the final, sixth session. These are very exciting results and show that Life Skills is a real and helpful option for many people.”

Delivery of the Life Skills programme in Ireland is possible due to the fundraising efforts of 15,000+ Tesco staff and customers nationwide as part of the Tesco Charity of the Year Partnership. Joanne Doyle, Stores Director with Tesco Ireland, also welcomed the positive results announced today: “At a time of unprecedented stress and financial worry for many people in Ireland, this programme is very timely and I would urge everyone to publicise its availability to as many of your colleagues, friends and family as possible. Working together, we can make a real difference to people’s lives.” Since the partnership started in April 2012, €1.8million has been raised for Aware’s Beat the Blues secondary schools programme as well as the Life Skills programme.

The next phase of Aware’s Life Skills programme is scheduled to start in March with 800 places available. Online application as well as location details are now available on

Professor Christopher Williams et al (2014). A randomised controlled trial of a community based group guided self-help intervention for low mood and stress (CSO Ref. No. CZH/4/738). Edinburgh, Scotland: Scottish Government Health Directorates Chief Scientist Office.

Key Points from Scottish study:
142 participants were recruited for the study. 68.1% of participants had, at the time of recruitment, experienced depression for over five years. At six-month follow-up, data was obtained on 71% (102/142) of participants.

59.6% of those who attended the weekly 90-minute sessions as part of the Scottish trial now scored below 10 (the clinical cut-off for depression) at six month follow-up, compared with 17.4% at the start of the trial (i.e. had moved from ‘moderate’/’moderately severe’/’severe’ categories to ‘none’ or ‘mild’ categories on PHQ9).

No differences were found in the treatment effect between genders suggesting that the intervention was equally effective for males and females. Previous research had shown that males are a hard-to-reach group for depression management and these findings show that community-based approaches have potential to engage and treat this group.

Life Skills (delivered in Scotland under the name Living Life to the Full) is based on principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The PHQ9 is used to monitor the severity of depression and response to treatment. With a total possible max. score of 27, depression severity is graded based on the PHQ9 score, as follows: 0-4 – none; 5-9 mild; 10-14 moderate; 15-19 moderately severe; 20-27 severe.

The GAD7 self-administered test score is calculated by assigning 0, 1, 2, 3 to the response categories of ‘not at all’; ‘several days’; ‘more than half the days’, and ‘nearly every day’, respectively. Total score for the seven items ranges from 0 to 21: 0-5 mild; 6-10 moderate; 11-15 moderately severe anxiety, and 15-21 severe anxiety.

Aware was chosen as the Tesco Charity of the Year for 2012 and 2013. Since its inception in 2001, the Tesco Charity of the Year Programme has donated over €12.3 million to nine Irish charities.

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