The Value of Peer Support for Teen Mental Health
Each January, millions of people resolve to make constructive changes in their lives. Most of these have to do with personal success and self-improvement. But what if we all resolved to help each other a bit more instead? What if we did this in targeted ways, such as fostering good pre-teen and teen mental health? If you’re a teen or the parent of a teen who has successfully navigated any kind of mental health challenge, offering support to others who are struggling may be one of the best New Year’s resolutions you can make.
Here’s why — and how — to get started.
Why Peer Support Is So Valuable for Teen Mental Health
The teenage years are a critical period for cognitive and emotional development, and the value of peer-to-peer mental health support during this time cannot be overstated. Peer support offers a unique resource that can complement professional healthcare services. It can significantly improve mental health outcomes, including increased engagement and reduced hospitalization rates. Here are some of the advantages of teens helping teens:
- Shared lived experience. Teens are more likely to open up to someone who has faced similar challenges to theirs, which fosters an authentic sense of understanding that adult professionals may not be able to offer. As a result, peer support can reduce feelings of isolation and stigma, making it easier for struggling individuals to speak up. In fact, as of 2021, 72% of parents believe having peer support leaders at school would encourage more teens to talk about their mental health concerns.
- Early intervention. Teen parent and teen-to-teen support can help identify early signs of mental health challenges and either offer insights and resources that prevent the need for professional help, or offer encouragement to seek help if it’s needed. This is particularly important given that early intervention can lead to better long-term outcomes.
- Mitigated mental healthcare gaps. Although peer support can never replace clinical psychological care, it has the potential to make a difference among populations with inadequate access to mental healthcare services. This is no small benefit, given the current shortage of mental healthcare workers in the US.
Ways You Can Support Teen Mental Health
Here are some ways teens and teen parents can make a difference in supporting adolescent mental health:
- Educating yourself about common mental health challenges and coping strategies
- Actively listening and validating young people’s emotional perspectives in non-judgmental ways
- Sharing information and resources (with sensitivity and compassion)
- Encouraging teens to seek out professional help in ways that destigmatize doing so
- Anonymously sharing your mental health stories, insights, and care provider reviews on reputable online platforms in order to reach and help teens regardless of their geographic location
Support Teen Mental Health With ReGroup Foundation
ReGroup Foundation is a non-profit that helps neurodiverse and neurotypical pre-teens, teens, and their families anonymously share and benefit from mental health success stories. Too often, the best resources and practices in teen mental health care remain under the radar. We want all families to benefit from the triumphs of those who have been there, done that. We make this possible by collecting family reviews of local mental health caregivers and facilities as well as personal strategies for helping teens get peer support and recover from wellness challenges.
In only 15 minutes, you can begin making a world of difference in the lives of other teens and their families — just by anonymously sharing your successes. Register today and start sharing your reviews and mental health insights!