The Peer Support Lead (PSL) programme has seen over 60 students from across the town come together regularly to learn more about a range of topics including mental health, empathetic listening and counselling skills, creative loitering and safeguarding. This training has supported them to work with younger students in their own schools providing peer support and supporting existing pastoral systems.

Last week we were grateful to welcome two local charities to help lead and facilitate our PSL training session. The Abingdon Bridge provides wellbeing support for children and young people aged 13 – 25 through a number of different ways including counselling and group work and is based in the centre of Abingdon. One Eighty was set up to support and engage young people to live motivated and successful lives through psychological and evidence-based approaches and works closely with local schools.

Students worked in groups to discuss scenarios they had experienced in their time being a PSL and shared ideas of how to provide support. Some of these focussed on balancing work pressures, making friends, family issues, anxiety and stress. The groups were supported by Gary, Susie, Holly and Kieran who shared their words of wisdom and professional advice for working with young people. Tips such as helping them feel like they have been heard and allowing them to feel and also express their emotions were useful for the group. Talking about ways to break the ice or becoming comfortable with silence gave the PSLs some practical ideas they could use in 1-1s. PSLs were encouraged to reflect on the impact they have had on the people they have worked with. They will all have made a difference to a young person’s life and have helped provide a safe space. The young people our PSLs have worked with will not only have received support in a time of need but they will also remember how they were made to feel in that time.

When commenting on their experience of being a PSL, students said ‘I really enjoyed it, it made me more confident!’ and ‘I found it very enlightening and rewarding.’

It was a pleasure to work with these charities who shared their expertise and experience with the PSL group. We look forward to working together in the future to continue our focus on wellbeing and support.

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