Positive news on the Peer Education Project

Journal Operations Manager at ACAMH

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A new school-based programme by the Mental Health Foundation called the Peer Education Project (PEP) has been making leaps and bounds in tackling rising issues with mental health in young people. The Mental Health Foundation worked alongside Cernis and Highgate School to coproduce the core of the programme content with students. The project aims to equip young people with the skills and knowledge they need in order to protect their own and their peer’s mental health. It also hopes to ensure that students know when and how to seek help for their mental health if they need it.

In an effort to overcome some of the barriers young people report when being taught personal topics by adults, PEP has been training Year 12s (16-17) to teach Year 7s (11-12). The programme seeks to tackle stigma and discrimination with a whole school approach to looking at how mental health affects us all. It uses simple concepts like the Five Ways to Wellbeing and introduces mindfulness, as well as dispelling some common myths about mental health and illness.

PEP has been tested in 9 different schools over two years, with the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families evaluating the second year of the project.

The evaluation by Anna Freud found the following positive results: 21% more Year 7 students said they could talk openly about their mental health; 22% said they knew how to stay mentally well; 50% of Year 7 students felt they had improved their understanding of stigma; nearly 60% of students said it was more helpful to learn from their peers, rather than a teacher; and 98% of peer educators and 88% of Year 7 students would ‘definitely’ or ‘maybe’ recommend that others take part in the programme.

In 2017-2018 and beyond, the programme is expanding to more schools around the UK. More teachers will be trained to deliver the project in their school, allowing for flexibility in how they manage the programme and building capacity within schools to allow the project to run year-on-year.

The Peer Education Project is funded by the Friends of the Foundation and Global’s Make Some Noise.

Key points

  • PEP aims to tackle rising mental health issues in young people.
  • Peer educators are trained to deliver a curriculum of mental health and wellbeing issues to younger pupils.
  • After testing in 9 different schools over two years, the Anna Freud National Centre has found positive results.
  • The PEP now aims to become available in more schools over 2017/18 and beyond.

To find out more about the project, you can contact Helen Bohan, Peer Education Project Manager (hbohan@mentalhealth.org.uk) and more information on PEP can be found on their website.

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