Dedicated to improving mental health in schools

Peer Educators, Watford Grammar School for Girls

As soon as we first heard about the Peer Education Project we knew it was a project that we wanted to take part in. The scheme is overseen by a national charity but delivered personally by sixth form students who know first-hand the pressures within a school environment in a pivotal time where mental health awareness is finally emerging at the forefront of the news and media.

The process began with selecting the Peer Mentors and this was organised by the Peer Mentor leaders from the previous cohort who interviewed us in a group to see how we interacted with each other and tackled controversial topics to decide who would be best suited to teaching younger students about mental health which is still somewhat stigmatised.

After the selection process the new Peer Mentors met for a training session where we were given details in how the scheme would run and what activities we could lead with the year 7s. We were given a folder of resources which included colourful activity packs as well as a memory stick with a template PowerPoint with each lesson plan on it that we could edit and tailor to each class as the weeks progressed. We were also taught about the stigma surrounding mental health and were prepped to answer difficult questions on various topics from depression to schizophrenia so that when we began our lessons we felt comfortable enough to help students with any queries they had as best we could.

As a Peer Educator group we then split up into more manageable teams of 2 or 3 which meant we could deliver more personal lessons to each class. We met every Wednesday lunchtime to adapt the PowerPoints we were given from the Mental Health Foundation and to plan our lessons. The lessons were structured with a combination of interactive activities and relevant information so that they were engaging. The highlight of the project for many of the Peer Educators was the mindfulness exercises which were not only beneficial to the year 7 students taking part in the lessons but also for the Peer Mentors themselves. This is a skill that we have been able to take into our exam period where stresses and anxiousness usually peak.

Having taken part in the project we have grown not just in confidence but also in awareness of mental health. We learnt how to discuss mental health in a concise yet honest way as well as being able to bridge the age gap between sixth form and lower school which has been extremely rewarding. We would like to thank the Mental Health Foundation for giving us the opportunity to take part in this scheme as it has enabled us to not just teach others but also to learn ourselves.