Peer confidants at school may help teens with anxiety, depression.

Teen challenges, including depression and anxiety, are better understood by their peers, as compared to teachers or counsellors in the school, believe three-quarters of parents in a new poll.

The majority also agree that peer support leaders at school would encourage more teens to talk with someone about their mental health problems. These are findings from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at Michigan Medicine.

“Peers may provide valuable support for fellow teens struggling with emotional issues because they can relate to each other,” says Mott Poll Co-Director Sarah Clark, M.P.H.

“Some teens may worry that their parents will overreact or not understand what they are going through. Teachers and school counsellors may also have limited time to talk with students in the middle of other responsibilities.”

Some schools have instituted peer support leaders to give teens safe channels to share problems. Teens who serve as mentors in these programmes are trained with oversight from teachers, counsellors or mental health professionals. They are available to talk with their fellow students on a walk-in basis at a designated place at school or by referral from school staff.

“The peer support mentors’ role is to listen, suggest problem-solving strategies, share information about resources, and, when appropriate, encourage their fellow student to seek help. The most essential task is to pick up on signs that suggest the student needs immediate attention and to alert the adults overseeing the programme. While this doesn’t replace the need for professional support, these programmes offer young people a non-threatening way to start working through their problems,” said Clark.

(Agencies)