The Importance of Peer Support

Hello! My name is Jeremiah and today we are going to talk about the benefits of The Nan Project’s “Peer to Peer” model that we use when speaking to students. The Peer to Peer model involves young adults who have recently graduated high school sharing their experiences recovering from mental health challenges in what we call their “comeback story,” and answering questions from the students on their personal recoveries. Peer mentors and students then discuss the warning signs and how they can either get support for themselves or help a friend struggling. We do this in a structure similar to a panel, but with more student involvement. 

Before becoming peer mentors, these young adults receive training in QPR (Question Persuade and Refer suicide prevention), as well as guidance on how to answer questions and tell their stories in a way that is safe for students to hear. There are quite a few benefits of using this model to talk to students. Studies have shown that people in peer support groups are less likely to be re-hospitalized and spend less time in in-patient care facilities in general. Our peer mentors are closer in age to students than other adults in their lives may be, and because of this they can see themselves reflected in our peer mentors. This is because peer mentors usually have a better understanding of what language and experiences will get through to students than older adults. Due to seeing themselves in the peer mentors, they can see that recovery from mental health challenges is possible. They see that they too have the potential to lead healthy, fulfilling lives because they aren’t alone in their struggles. The students see someone who has been in their position and maybe even had the same experiences as them, recovering from their struggles. This reduces the stigma that surrounds talking about mental health challenges because having young adults talk to them candidly about their personal recoveries normalizes struggling with mental health.

I personally have been sharing my story to students for about four months. I really enjoy sharing my story with students, as I wish I could have heard a story similar to mine when I was in high school. In my story, I talk about transitioning as a transgender man and leaving an abusive relationship. Students sometimes ask questions about the process of transitioning as well as how I got out of the abusive relationship. I also speak to them about how I maintain mental wellness. The students are very respectful of my story usually, I haven’t yet had a bad experience. I feel really good after a day of presenting. Being a peer mentor not only makes a positive impact in the lives of these students, it allows me to reflect on how far I have come and the things I have to look forward to in the future.

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