An interesting new literature review commissioned by the DfE has been published into the effectiveness of peer mentoring schemes to improve young people’s mental health.
The study focused mainly on school based schemes but included a small number of online and community based schemes. The study looked at impact on young people’s mental health outcomes and their general wellbeing and took in some associated outcomes such as confidence and self esteem.
As is often the case, the review found limited robust evidence of impact but a great deal of self reported positive feedback from young people on the benefit for them in terms of general confidence and wellbeing indicators. This seemed to span both primary and secondary school age children, and applied both to boys and girls. The benefits seemed more marked in school based interventions but these were in the main more formalised and therefore the impact was easier to measure.
Interestingly the study notes significant wellbeing improvements for peer mentors as well as those being mentored.
The features of the successful schemes were noted as:
- the quality of the peer mentors;
- having a dedicated space for peer support, with dedicated time slots;
- a structured process of monitoring and evaluation;
- formal training of peer supporters and co-ordinators.
The study notes some features of peer mentoring which can lead to no or negative outcomes for those being mentored:
- lack of support within the school/ setting, leading to the scheme not being sustained;
- inadequate recruitment and support mechanisms leading to a lack of trust in the peer mentors;
- poor mentoring interactions (often down to inadequate support for mentors) leading to harmful mentoring interactions.