Wensleydale School students become peer mentors

Left to right peer mentors Lillian Hardill, Olivia Handley, Anya Mason and Matthew Rooney.

A group of students at The Wensleydale School and Sixth Form have taken on the responsibility of becoming peer mentors to help protect their young classmates from the pressures of modern life.

There are around a dozen volunteers who have been trained to act in the role, assisting those who may be affected by mental health issues.

The scheme was launched in September 2019 and training in early 2020 was affected by the coronavirus pandemic but determination meant the scheme was still able to be launched, using online rather than face to face communication initially.

Now it is returning to the intended format, using an informal approach.

It has been supported with funding from North Yorkshire’s Stronger Communities and Public Health teams.

Headteacher Julia Polley said: “The whole point was to get young people talking to others because talking is really good therapy and we wanted to have some who were trained to talk to others, so people would know who they are.

“We train them really robustly, so they understand about confidentiality – it is quite a big thing for young people to take that sort of thing on board.

“Covid-19 made us realise there was an additional need to talk and look after each other, so we were making regular phone calls and using Snapchat so everyone had the opportunity to make contact,” she said.

The school uses outside bodies to provide support on counselling and those involved get their own back-up – in recognition that their role can be tough.

“Well being and mental health is top of our list, apart from academic work, but they almost go hand in glove,” she said.

“People will take worries and concerns very genuinely and I think parents really appreciate the fact that we do listen and will make sure people get to the right place.

“It is not scheduled or regimented, it is a natural, holistic, thing,” she said.