Woodstock is a place which aims for the overall well-being of its community whether that’s physical or mental health. To make it more accessible and available to Middle Year and Upper Year kids, the counselling cell of the school has started a programme called peer support. According to research, peer support is an important and effective technique for increasing mental health awareness, reducing campus-wide stigma about mental health, and assisting people in receiving appropriate assistance and resources. It consists of grade 11 and 12 students who have gotten over 16 hours of training to support and offer comfort to their peers and juniors from all over the school.
The main objectives include making mental health – and the support related to it – available to everyone. Additionally, we plan to create more sensitivity around it. Plus the people who have been enrolled as peer supporters will gain a better sense of individuality and effectively learn teamwork.
Being a part of this wonderful programme, I feel that the best part about it, is the confidentiality agreement which is maintained between the student and the peer supporter. It gives the student a very safe and secure place to share anything they’re going through. The biggest strength of this programme is that it’s the students who are peer supporters. According to research conducted by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Michigan, kids usually feel more confident and comfortable talking to their peers/seniors due to the fact that they can relate more. A counsellor is a safe person to vent to, but we understand that children might not always want to open up to an adult. One can practically talk to these trained students as they would with their friends. Not only does it empower the students to deal with the problems they’re having, it also helps them empower themselves to tackle the stigma around mental health and the difficulties associated with it. Additionally, it offers them hope to overcome their inconveniences. The peer support training included various group activities. It also covered topics like communication (both verbal and non-verbal), group boundaries, effective questioning like prompting and summarising, decision making, welcoming and unwelcoming behaviours, limit-setting, open-mindedness, advice giving and active listening. The 16-hour intense training was the second step preceded by a rigorous interview for selection.
We have already started tackling major problems like peer pressure, minor anxiety, adjustment to the school environment, homesickness, academic pressure and more. Furthermore, we plan on going to various schools around Mussoorie to advocate mental-health well-being along with sharing our progress till now and our action plan for the rest of the school year. Talking about mental health is a primary requirement which will also help to curb the stigma around it. We also plan on visiting villages so that this programme isn’t only limited to Woodstock and more people can be aware and implement it in their own smaller and local communities.
Reaching out to the peer-supporters is very simple wherein one only needs to come up to them in school, or an email will do the job as well. Regardless of how someone is approaching us, help will always be given to those who ask for it.
Preksha is a staff reporter.
Edited by Aryaman.