The Peer Education Project is a school-based programme that aims to give young people the skills and knowledge they need to safeguard their mental health, and that of their peers.

Mental Health Foundation: Peer Education Project

The project was born out of the idea that a key source of support to young people experiencing mental health distress is their peer group within the school environment. We developed this idea into a solution appropriate for schools.

By training older pupils to deliver mental health lessons to a younger student, the project aims to bypass the walls many young people put up when being taught such nuanced, personal topics by adults whom they feel are detached from their personal experiences.

We know that three students in every classroom are likely to be experiencing a mental health problem. With 50% of mental health problems established by the age of 14, a child’s time at secondary school is an important time to equip them to understand, protect and sustain their mental health throughout their school career and beyond.

“I realised after doing these sessions that I didn’t know much about mental health. It really helped me personally, and it was rewarding – and fun.” Peer Educator

“I think it was easier that they were close to our age – they understood our feelings a bit more.” – Year 7 student

How does it work?

There are three stages to the implementation of the Peer Education Project:

  1. Staff training – staff members attend a training session in how to deliver the project, covering the key concepts, project structure and materials. By training staff to deliver the project in their own schools, the project aims to build capacity within schools to run the project year-on-year.
  2. Peer Educator selection and training – staff recruit and train a group of Peer Educators from amongst their sixth form students. A handbook of training advice and lesson plans is given to all Peer Educators to help them run the sessions.
  3. Lesson delivery – working in pairs, the trained Peer Educators deliver the five-hour-long lessons to Year 7’s. Pupils receive a workbook containing key information and worksheets.

What does the project teach?

The project introduces mental health as something that we all have, like physical health.

It encourages students to think about ways to stay well, how to seek help and support friends.

It also introduces common myths around mental health, and the stigma and discrimination people experience as a result. 

Why peer education?

Studies of peer-delivered health education suggest that peer educators can be effective because:

  • young people find them to be more credible sources of information than adult educators, presenting information in ways that are both clear and relevant
  • young people may feel more comfortable asking questions of peer educators
  • peer-delivered programmes can build on existing role-modelling and mentoring
  • peer Education uses existing social networks to influence change, sustaining impact beyond the educational sessions themselves.