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Develop a peer support programme in your school or college

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On this page you can find information about:

  • types of peer support for mental wellbeing 

  • core principles that can help in co-developing a peer support programme. 

Peer support for mental wellbeing 

Peer support for mental wellbeing refers to a range of peer-led programmes and approaches that support children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.  

This includes peer tutoring, coaching, listening, mentoring, mediation and counselling, befriending and buddying.  

Peer support programmes that focus on mental health and wellbeing can have a range of positive outcomes for children and young people. We also know that some children and young people find it easier to talk to their peers than to adults

Approaches to peer support 

Approaches to peer support can vary, depending on your individual setting and needs, but they all have three common features:   

  • children and young people helping and supporting each other 

  • support being offered in a planned and structured way 

  • supporters that are trained and supervised to carry out their role safely and effectively. 

Five core principles for co-developing a peer support programme  

Developing and implementing a peer support programme can be an effective way to support young people with mild mental health concerns.   

These five core principles, developed in consultation with children and young people, can help schools and colleges to co-design, co-produce and co-deliver a peer support programme that will work for them.   

  1. Work where young people already are: be creative in how you engage young people – for example, during breaks, through after school clubs, or via sports and creative activities. 

  2. Involve the right people: think carefully about mentor and mentee recruitment, as well as appropriate staff to provide support. 

  3. Focus on relationships: build trust with mentors so that you can support them to develop the skills they need to build trusting relationships with others. 

  4. Encourage young people’s ownership: collaborate, co-design and co-produce the programme to make sure that young people have a sense of agency and ownership of the programme. 

  5. Establish safety and clear boundaries: make sure mentors are adequately trained and supervised so that they feel safe and supported. 

The working togetherstep of the 5 Steps framework offers further suggestions for how to involve pupils and the wider school or college community.  

Anna Freud is currently developing a training to support schools and colleges to co-develop their peer support offer with young people. 

Sign up to our training newsletter to find out when you can book your place on the course. 


  • Planning peer support 

    Peer Support Mental Wellbeing_Schools&College

    This resource introduces staff to peer support and helps them to lay the groundwork to co-develop appropriate support for their setting.


Introduction to peer support

Dr Cyra Neave introduces terminology frequently used in peer support programmes and key statistics relating to children and young people's mental health.