In 2017, Worth-it collaborated with Bedford CAMHS and 6 secondary schools to deliver our school-based wellbeing peer mentoring programme, Wellbeing Ambassadors.

The Wellbeing Ambassadors programme provided a unique opportunity to apply evidence-based techniques and strategies that improve wellbeing, through peer to peer support. The programme combined several highly effective approaches proven to improve the wellbeing of young people.

The programme combined peer mentoring, peer coaching and applied positive psychology to develop the wellbeing of both the Wellbeing Ambassadors and the peers they mentor.

Working with CAMHS school link team

Following the Department for Education funded CAMHS school link pilots, local young people in Bedford identified a need for the provision of early support to improve their wellbeing and prevent mental health problems developing.

East London NHS Foundation Trust responded by commissioning Worth-it to work in partnership with Bedford CAMHS school link service to develop a Peer to Peer support programme, providing young person lead early intervention and prevention within schools.

This project helped develop our current Wellbeing Ambassadors programme and was piloted in 6 schools across Bedfordshire who worked in partnership with Bedfordshire CAMHS school link team, Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire early help team.

This project will positively impact on young people in Bedfordshire schools, providing early prevention that improves wellbeing through peer mentoring over the next three years.

Read more about the project and outcomes here.

Developing peer mentoring for wellbeing in schools

As well as working with Local Authority and NHS multi-agency teams, the Wellbeing Ambassador Programme is being delivered within 6 Bedfordshire schools.

  • Manshead School
  • Samuel Whitbread Academy
  • Bedford Academy
  • Kempston Challenger Academy
  • Sharnbrook Upper School
  • St Thomas More

These schools are training a cohort or year 12 students to become wellbeing ambassadors who will improve the wellbeing of younger peers.

Wellbeing outcomes through peer mentoring

The programme provides an ‘upstream’ early intervention designed to prevent mental health problems developing by equipping young people with confidence, interpersonal skills, thinking skills and improving self-awareness. This way of working enhances wellbeing and a sense of belonging to school which promotes attendance and reduces incidents of unhelpful behaviour in the Wellbeing Ambassadors and the peers they support. Other benefits can include improved engagement, academic achievement and a reduction in bullying incidents across the school. Peer support programmes are also an important component of a whole school approach to mental health.

How does peer mentoring and being a Wellbeing Ambassador improve wellbeing?

Peer support is associated with many positive outcomes for both the Wellbeing Ambassador and the peer they are supporting.

The Wellbeing Ambassador develops their wellbeing through:

  • Volunteering to be involved
  • Participation in the Wellbeing Ambassador workshop where they practice skill for developing wellbeing
  • Learning new skills that improve wellbeing
  • Developing themselves to role model wellbeing
  • Applying those skills through supporting peers formally or informally
  • Running informal support programmes for peers such as lunch time drop-in sessions, friendship groups and wellbeing activities
  • Building confidence and self-awareness

The peer develops wellbeing through:

  • The supportive relationship provided by the Wellbeing Ambassador who role models wellbeing and provides a supportive trusting relationship
  • Through feeling they belong to school and have a positive relationships with other young people.
  • Learning skills and strategies to develop wellbeing by working through the Wellbeing Workbook with the Ambassador
  • Practising skills for wellbeing in the support sessions with their peer mentor as well is in every day life at school or home

How has the Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme developed since then?

Over the last 6 years our wellbeing Ambassadors programme has evolved. The programme has been delivered in over 70 schools and settings.

In stead of focusing on the formal peer mentoring that we did with the Bedford Schools and Bedford CAMHS Wllbeing Ambassadord has become a peer to peer support positive education programme. This means the support provided is more informal than offering one-to-one peer mentoring which can often be a logistical challenge to get organised in a school. Especially for bust and overwhelmed pastoral staff.

Research by the Anna Freud Center found that for a government funded peer mentoring programme they piloted did not reach the young people it was designed to support. That although the mentor gained a lot from becoming a peer mentor, schools found it hard to engage younger mentees in the intervention. We also found this with early versions of our peer coaching and peer mentoring programme and therefore adapted our Wellbeing Ambassador Programme to meet school needs and be engaging for young people.

The Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme now uses more informal coaching and mentoring techniques, such as listening, being responsible and supportive.

The Wellbeing Ambassador Programme focuses on core Wellbeing Ambassador skills are integrated them with teaching young people strategies to look after their own and their peer's wellbeing as well as explicit activities how to increase access to wellbeing support. Key to our approach is learning and sharing strategies that develop skills for coping and ways for reducing stress. These skills, tools and strategies have been developed into an engaging training workshop for Wellbeing Ambassadors and a train the trainer toolkit for schools and settings to deliver the programme themselves.

The most important thing about the Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme is that after they are trained they then lead the programme to support their peers. The Wellbeing Ambassadors identify the problems other young people are facing that impact on their wellbeing, and develop and ways that reduce the negative effect of these issues for their peers.

How Wellbeing Ambassadors Make a Difference to their Peers

Once trained young people lead a variety of wellbeing initiatives in their school or setting. These vary depending on what the Ambassadors themselves have identified as key priorities to improve peer wellbeing.

Initiatives lead by Wellbeing Ambassadors in other schools or settings have included

  • Supporting year 7 transition
  • LGBTQ+ support groups
  • Reducing racism
  • Building belonging and connection at school
  • Fundraising for wellbeing projects
  • Running mental health anti-stigma campaigns
  • Raising awareness of suicide prevention
  • Supporting with mental health awareness events
  • Making and sharing self-help resources for peers

In doing this the Ambassadors are sharing what really matters to them to support peer wellbeing. In doing so they are supporting the prevention of the onset of more serious mental health problems for their peers.

How are Wellbeing Ambassadors Trained?

The Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme is delivered within a school usually over an academic year. The programme has been designed to work within a busy school calendar. We have developed the Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme into a online course and programme of digital resources schools can use over three academic years.

Within the Wellbeing Ambassadors Digital Programme, you’ll find everything you need to deliver the programme within your school or setting:

  • Online training for the Facilitator
  • Indepth instruction manual for the Programme Facilitator
  • Downloadable Wellbeing Ambassador Workbooks
  • Promotional Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme poster
  • Ambassador recruitment application forms
  • PowerPoint presentation with embedded video clips
  • Facilitators CPD Attendance certificate
  • Editable Ambassadors Workshop Attendance Certificate
  • Facilitator Q&A support sessions and trouble shooting
  • Examples and best practice from other schools
     

Schools and settings we work with find our online Wellbeing Ambassadors programme provides them with the confidence, resources and information they need to quickly get a Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme up and running, without re inventing the wheel!

We hope you can support the young people in your school gain from the benefits of a Wellbeing Ambassdors Programme.

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