BALM: Behavioural Activation study programme – The story so far…

The BALM Behavioural Activation (BA) study is a programme of support tailored to help men working in the NHS, with the use of evidence based talking therapy treatment,  breaking the cycle of avoidance created by low mood or anxiety.

BALM is partnered with Tees Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and North West Ambulance Service.

BALM is an early intervention which aims to prevent the development of common mental health problems among male frontline NHS workers. There is the potential for BALM to be rolled out across, NHS wellbeing services.

Since March 2022 the BALM research team has been developing and tailoring the intervention (a self-help booklet based on principles of Behavioural Activation) to men. The study will come to completion in April 2024, when the research team will be analysing their findings, although early analysis indicates positive outcomes.

From the beginning the BALM research team and ambassadors promoted the study, to encourage self referral of male individuals wanting to take part.

The story so far…
There have been 218 expressions of interest from men working in the NHS.

  • 45 eligible participants have been included in the study.
  • 10 North West Ambulance Services
  • 28 Tees Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust
  • 7 for York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • 10 participants have successfully completed the intervention

BALM coaches
BALM coaches were recruited from a range of NHS professions, from each of the three partner NHS trusts (Tees, Esk and Wears Valley NHS Foundation Trust, York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and North West Ambulance Service).

Twenty-five BALM coaches are fully trained, eighteen of which have actively delivered the intervention to participants.

As part of the BA intervention, coaches work together with participants to deliver a collaborative intervention plan based on BA, using the self-help booklet as a guide. Coaches receive regular supervision from a clinical member of the BALM study team.

Poor mental health is the main reason for sickness absences across the NHS. The risk of suicide among male paramedics is 75% higher than the general population. However, men are often reluctant to seek help due to societal pressures to conform to traditional masculine identities. Figures show, only 34% of people accessing psychological therapies are men.

At the end of the intervention, the research team will determine if it benefitted the participants, in terms of improving their mood, if the intervention was accessible and participants found it engaging. Finally, they will collect feedback from the coaches on delivery of the intervention.. If this proves successful, the aim is to embed the intervention within the practice NHS wellbeing services.

You can find out more about BALM here