Over 150 Lanarkshire schoolchildren trained as mental health peer supporters

1st July 2024

More than 150 young people in schools across South Lanarkshire have learned how to support their friends and fellow pupils with their mental health, thanks to training from SAMH (Scottish Action for Mental Health).

So far a total of 12 schools have taken part in the Peer Supporters Training Programme, giving thousands of pupils across the region the option of seeking support from a fellow pupil when they are experiencing mental health problems or low wellbeing.

In addition to the immediate impact of making peer support easily available, the training programme also gives young people the chance to embed new ways of approaching the topic of mental health and wellbeing in their schools. 

The programme delivers eight hours of training to S3 and S4 pupils on providing mental health peer support and prioritises early intervention and prevention to help manage our mental health.

It also facilitates planning sessions where peer supporters develop ideas for regular wellbeing drop-in sessions for their school. Activities have ranged from making mental health-focused podcasts and practising self-care, to hosting arts and crafts activities like creating stress balls.

After completing training, 95% of peer supporters rated their knowledge of mental health as high, compared to 52% beforehand. A total of 151 young people have now taken part in the training throughout South Lanarkshire.

Calderside Academy in Blantyre is one of the schools that has been championing the Peer Supporters Training Programme, with 16 pupils completing the training. The school’s peer supporters now run weekly drop-ins for anyone to attend and try different activities aligned to the 5 Ways to Better Wellbeing, which focus on small activities we can build into our routines to help maintain positive mental health.

Following on from initial training, pupils receive continued support from staff at SAMH and in their school. This includes school staff being present at all training sessions, being on hand to help Peer Supporters at every wellbeing drop in and supporting ongoing learning.

Erica Barclay, a peer supporter taking part in the programme, said: “I really enjoyed the training. I feel like we have become a very welcoming and caring group for young people to come to.

“The training has changed my view of mental health and how it can affect people in many different ways. We have even learned how to support each other with our own mental health. I now look forward to helping other pupils at my school as a relatable peer supporter.”

Miss McDonald, a teacher at Calderside Academy, said: “The SAMH training has had such a positive impact at Calderside Academy. Pupils have much more of an opportunity to discuss how they are feeling and what they are going through to a very relatable group of pupils. Our peer supporters are a confident and friendly bunch and are now well equipped to help many of our pupils at Calderside who might need support.”

Catherine Knox, Team Leader at SAMH (Scottish Action for Mental Health), said: “We are delighted that so many young people have actively engaged with our training and that thousands of schoolchildren can now feel the benefits of that. The mental health of children today is the mental health of adults tomorrow and, ultimately, the most powerful part of the Peer Supporters Training Programme is that it’s pupil-led. It’s all about the young people coming together to connect, drive the positive change they want to see and make safe spaces within their schools. 

“It is also a privilege to be working alongside teachers who despite the pressures associated with their everyday roles, are passionate about making positive changes to the mental health of young people and dedicate so much time to ensure that our Peer Supporters programme is embedded within their setting. 

“Our ambition is to support a whole generation of young people to build the skills and knowledge they need to care for themselves and others.” 

The Peer Supporter Training Programme is part of the Let’s Connect service from SAMH’s Children and Young People team. The service supports mental health awareness and self-care in children from P6 up to S6, along with support for parents, carers and school staff.

Let’s Connect is funded by the Children and Young People’s Community Mental Health and Wellbeing Supports and Services Fund from the Scottish Government.