A short introduction to youth peer support

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Photo by Camille Orgel on Unsplash

Peer support is sort of my jam, it is something I feel knowledgeable and very passionate about.

It began back in 2014 when I got the opportunity to volunteer as a Peer Counselor at the Peer Support Centre during my undergraduate studies. After I completed graduate school, I landed a position working as a Youth Engagement Project Coordinator for a children’s mental health hospital to create a peer-based mental health program for youth in the community.

Youth peer support

Peer support is a supportive relationship between people who have a lived experience in common. The peer support worker provides emotional and social support to others who share a common experience.

Key elements of Peer Support include recovery, empowerment, and hope. Peer support is built on shared personal experience and empathy that focuses on the individual’s strengths to work towards their wellbeing and recovery.

Peer-based mental health programs have been proven to help reduce the stigma of mental illness by promoting mental health awareness and making services more accessible to youth.

Example of youth peer support activities and responsibilities

  • Provide one-on-one peer counseling at a drop-in center
  • Facilitate peer support groups
  • Encourage young people to engage in services (e.g. participate in meetings, ask questions about their treatment plans, advocate or themselves)
  • Assist youth in navigating services
  • Share their personal story of recovery to inspire their peers
  • Ensure young people seeking services feel less outnumbered when they meet with adults about their mental health issues

Why peer support?

Studies show that “youth are more likely to speak to friendsfamily members or other informal sources rather than to formal sources such as doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists about their mental health concerns.”

One of my favorite component of peer support is that it can be very informal, such as meeting for coffee regularly with your peers to chat about the challenges you are facing. This is known as self-help or peers support groups, which studies show can help young people improve their coping skills, increase self-efficacy and provide social support.

Peer support is an effective way to provide mental health support and promote mental wellness among young people. It can be utilized to streamline caseload of formal mental health services by providing informal support for young people.

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