By JoAnn Sartorius, LISW, is a consultant, trainer, and program manager through her business, Programs for Adolescents, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. With thirty-five years of experience with high risk youth of all ages and ethnicities, she brings a wealth of knowledge to schools and communities working to prevent youth suicide.
Youth are the first to know when their friends have problems. Peer-to-peer helping programs empower our youth to effectively watch out for each other, training them to recognize when peers are having trouble and to respond appropriately. Trained peer helpers are bonded to trusted adults who sponsor the programs and youth know when and how to access adult assistance for friends. Trained peer helpers also know that self care is essential and make a commitment to take care of themselves using the support from their fellow peer helpers and program sponsors.
Peer helping programs go by many names, such as Natural Helpers and SWAT (Student Wellness Action Team). Youth in these programs receive training in peer helping skills, and also gain knowledge about the issues important to them such as suicide prevention, teen dating violence, bullying, alcohol and other abused substances. This combination of skills and knowledge, along with a close-knit positive peer group guided by trusted adults, creates a powerful group of youth who truly make a difference.
I have been assisting schools and youth groups to develop evidence-based peer helping programs that fit their particular needs, situations, and budget for fifteen years. Twenty-five years of evaluation shows that peer-to-peer helping programs work for young people from late elementary through college. Please feel free to contact me: JoAnn Sartorius, firstname.lastname@example.org.