Peer support programs can fill access gaps for young people

As schools and communities are scrambling to find more ways to support the well-being of young people in an epidemic-fueled mental health crisis, some feel the answer is to help other students.

The basic idea behind these peer support programs is simple: they rely on trained students who reach out to them, provide direct advice and guidance, or spot struggling students and help them connect with an adult or professional resource.

Many people – especially students – want to see more licensed mental health professionals at school, but it takes time and money to find adequately trained professionals. And while peer support systems are not intended to replace trained adults equipped to handle serious problems, they may be the first line of initial intervention and empowerment – although experts say research on their effectiveness remains limited.

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