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Why Peer-to-Peer Support is Important

“Regardless of how happy, smart or popular someone seems on the outside, everyone is fighting battles we have no idea about,” said Katie Ramboyong, a junior at Freedom High School in Loudoun County, Va., and one of the first students to complete the teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA) pilot program.

“I noticed a friend on Snapchat was posting pictures of herself crying with statements about hating her parents and wanting to end her life. I reached out to her and she said that she felt safer at school than at home, and often had thoughts of taking her own life.”

Katie helped her friend talk to a responsible and trusted adult at Freedom High School, and that friend is now working with a counselor, has a supportive group of peers and is doing much better.

When facing a mental health or substance use challenge, a person can feel alone or afraid to ask for help. That’s why having a good support network is incredibly important. Research shows that people with supportive friends and family are more likely to reach out, get the help they need and get better more quickly.

This is also true for young people. Teenagers are often afraid they’ll be judged or criticized for what they’re going through or how they’re feeling. That’s why they are more likely to go to their friends for support before reaching out to an adult. This makes it incredibly important that young people feel confident in supporting each other through the good and bad times.

teen Mental Health First Aid does just that. tMHFA teaches high school students about common mental health challenges and what they can do to help their friends who are struggling. Sometimes this is just being a shoulder to lean on or ear to listen, but sometimes it’s more serious and requires outside help. tMHFA empowers teens to speak up, take action and get help when it’s needed the most from a trusted adult.

Katie helped her friend reach out to a trusted adult and get the help she needed to take care of her mental health. You can too. Learn more about teen Mental Health First Aid, run by the National Council and supported by Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation. Right now, select high schools across the country are training students. We’re looking forward to expanding to more schools across the country in the coming years.