The Integration of Mental Health Peer Educators in High Schools: A Preventative Measure to Promote Mental Health among Young People in Swaziland 

Peer Educators from St. Marks High School

Peer Educator from Sifundzani High School

About the Project
Background
 

Mental disorders account for a large proportion of the disease burden in young people in all societies. Most mental disorders begin during youth (12–24 years of age), although they are often first detected later in life. Poor mental health is strongly related to other health and development concerns in young people, notably lower educational achievements, substance abuse, violence, and poor reproductive and sexual health.

The effectiveness of some interventions for some mental disorders in this age-group have been established, although more research is urgently needed to improve the range of affordable and feasible interventions, since most mental-health needs in young people are unmet, in particular in low-and middle-income countries. Key challenges to addressing mental-health needs include the shortage of mental-health professionals, the fairly low capacity and motivation of non-specialist health workers to provide quality mental-health services to young people, and the stigma associated with mental disorder.

 Challenges
 The effectiveness of some interventions for some mental disorders in this age-group have been established, although more research is urgently needed to improve the range of affordable and feasible interventions, since most mental-health needs in young people are unmet, in particular in low-and middle-income countries. Key challenges to addressing mental-health needs include the shortage of mental-health professionals, the fairly low capacity and motivation of non-specialist health workers to provide quality mental-health services to young people, and the stigma associated with mental disorder.
Our Proposal 
 We propose a population-based, youth focused model, explicitly integrating mental health with other youth health and welfare expertise. Addressing young people's mental-health needs is crucial if they are to fulfil their potential and contribute fully to the development of their communities.
How Its Done
 1) Mentoring and Befriending: Cross-age peer mentoring refers to programs in which an older youth (mentor) who can also be the teacher is matched with a younger student (mentee) for the purpose of guiding and supporting the mentee in many areas of her academic, social, and emotional development.

2) Co-counselling and support groups: This refers to peer-to-peer emotional/psychological support, in which there is no designated professional.  In such settings, individuals who are struggling seek out one or more peers who are experiencing, or have experienced similar struggles, so that they may provide advice and/or guidance, as well as a feeling of acceptance and community that they may not receive from their community at large.

 3) Community education: This refers to the process of disseminating the information acquired regarding mental health to the community at large, in order to promote awareness, decrease stigma, and assist in early identification and intervention of mental health issues.  Additionally, community education can facilitate further skill building in the area of mental health.
Our Support 
 Our project is supported by the SAHEE (Sustainability for Agriculture, Health, Education, and Environment) Foundation

We also receive support from a number of volunteers, many from Swaziland Christian University and University of Swaziland.