January 26, 2023
Our Wellbeing Ambassadors programme gives young people the skills and attitudes to support the growth of their peers’ wellbeing. It also inspires young people to take ownership of and direct initiatives for promoting wellbeing within their schools.
Through combining both coaching psychology and positive psychology techniques, it ensures that groups of young people are trained and supported to develop peer wellbeing in their school or setting such as college or youth group.
We have developed this popular programme over several years working with both CAMHS, schools, local authorities. Most importantly the programme is developed with young people themselves. Making sure it is effective and meet the young people and their peers.
This article provides an overview of the training the Wellbeing Ambassadors undertake to support peer wellbeing.
The programme develops some essential Wellbeing Ambassador skills. These include:
Through the delivery of the Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme, these skills are built and encouraged to enable the students to become effective Wellbeing Ambassadors. Developing their ability to feel confident and safe to support their peers to develop wellbeing and reduce stress, while promoting positive relationships that help create belonging for pupils.
One of the first activities we run as part of the training workshop, is to establish an effective working agreement among the team of Wellbeing Ambassadors. This focuses on sharing characteristics they want to demonstrate as a team and how they want to effectively work together.
This means that the Ambassadors know from the outset what a “Wellbeing Ambassador” is and guides them through their Ambassador journey to know what to expect from themselves. The fact that they co-create these qualities as a team gives them responsibility and helps them to feel empowered in their roles and more ready and able to support peers.
Here we draw a distinction between listening and hearing, helping the ambassadors to understand that true listening involves giving someone your attention and working to understand what they mean.
We work through a series of listening games and activities. Helping students to develop listening skills. Ensuring Wellbeing Ambassadors have a clear understanding of the essential listening skills required to help peers with their wellbeing and provide early peer wellbeing support.
Day to day work and life often demands that we pay attention to the content of other people’s communication and less of the “how” they communicate. An essential Ambassador’s skill is to be aware of the importance of less conscious aspects of communication, such as eye contact, gestures, posture, facial expression, voice tone, pitch, pace, volume and underlying emotion.
This helps the Ambassadors understand how identifying more emotional or non-verbal communication can help them to identify when their peers may be thriving or struggling. They realise that it is unlikely their peers will come forward and say “I feel down”, or “I need help to feel more confident” and that they may even verbally contradict their emotions. For example, saying “I feel fine”, while their body language and voice tone show that they are anything but fine. Through this they gain the awareness to notice the underlying emotion and reach out to see if their peers want to talk.
On the other side of the interaction, Ambassadors gain awareness into how they communicate their emotional state to others. That the kindness and compassion necessary to be approachable are not just words they say, but how they are being as well. They learn that when their words, body language and voice tone are sending the same message, people will feel better able to trust them.
They also gain the self-awareness and responsibility to understand when they themselves are feeling a bit off colour and need support from someone else and that if this is the case, they may not be in a good position to support others.
It is essential to clarify how Wellbeing Ambassadors can support their peers to gain awareness of strategies for their wellbeing. In groups, they explore their personal reasons for becoming Ambassadors and what excites them about it, as well as what it might mean to the school and others that they are Wellbeing Ambassadors. After having opened up the dialogue to the whole group they write down what they believe their roles and responsibilities will be and what the boundaries for their role are.
This self/co-generation process and the fact that they have chosen to become Wellbeing Ambassadors, helps them to invest personal responsibility into their roles. This is essential in ensuring their wellbeing is always maintained and they are clear what they are able to support peers with and what would require adult support.
Building on their qualities of being responsible, the Wellbeing Ambassadors learn what to do to keep themselves and others safe in their roles. We help them to take on this important responsibility by keeping the message simple and fun that they should talk to a member of staff if they hear that a young person is at risk of harm. We apply this to themselves as ambassadors as well, highlighting that they need to keep themselves safe above all.
We ensure we follow school safeguarding procedures to guarantee that our message and approach is in sync with theirs.
As a facilitator, I like to begin this section by talking about my mum and the outstanding role model she has been for my wellbeing. Ambassadors then work in pairs to identify their own role models, as well as the characteristics they admire. They then compare their role models to themselves, identifying things in common, differences and qualities they would like to work on. After this, they explore the qualities that they have that make them “wellbeing role models” to their peers.
This builds their self-awareness, as well as an awareness of the qualities, such as reliability and supportiveness, that they can bring to their Ambassador roles.
Throughout the training, Ambassadors learn how a certain amount of stress can be useful, as it can help us to feel motivated and focussed, but that when stress levels get too high it can become too much and tip us over into distress, making us feel exhausted and potentially leading to disease.
They explore how to spot signs of stress - such as exam stress - in others and themselves, identifying what can be done and how to communicate to others that they are stressed. This not only helps them to be more self-aware and communicate effectively but to reach out to and raise awareness for others to prevent becoming overly stressed or anxious. They can then share this with peers so they are more able to understand, manage and reduce levels of stress.
Wellbeing Ambassadors learn that we use positive coping skills to minimise stress or conflict and that they can be helpful in diminishing the immediate effects of stress.
After exploring what coping skills are, ambassadors go through a checklist of coping skill ideas, identifying which ones they feel they might find useful, as well as adding their own skills. They then pick one skill to try out and practice for coping with a certain situation. As a development task they look at ways they can support others, by reflecting on how they might identify coping skills in their peers and whether, or not they may be helpful.
Learning and practising coping strategies empowers them to be resourceful in the face of challenging feelings and situations. They can then share these strategies with peers informally through conversations or drop-in sessions.
It’s important the Wellbeing Ambassadors feel confident and able to run mental health and wellbeing campaigns to support their peers. We do this by discussing examples of successful campaigns and exploring why we remember them, the communication used and how they connect with our own beliefs and values. Using these campaigns as inspiration, the ambassadors set about working in groups to develop their own wellbeing campaigns in their schools or setting, applying what they have learnt in this programme, the roles different ambassadors can play and thinking about how to promote campaigns effectively.
During the mind-mapping/workshopping activity, they become empowered to generate a movement for positive change, working creatively and drawing upon the unique strengths that each of them holds. This collaboration sparks motivation and responsibility, as they strategize about how to communicate their knowledge and skills.
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 led by Wellbeing Ambassadors in other schools or settings have included
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.
This programme is being developed in a Primary Wellbeing Ambassadors programme, find out more and get involved in our Wellbeing Ambassadors pilot for primary schools.
To find out more about our Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme access our FREE Wellbeing Ambassadors Cheatsheet to find out how to set up an effective peer-to-peer support programme in your school. Understand more about the impact of our Wellbeing Ambassadors programme on young people's mental health and wellbeing by accessing our FREE Impact Report.
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