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Natural Helpers

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,  joannsartorius@gmail.com.


01/06/2015 at 12:49 PM
Hello there. My name is naama and i am 16 years old. Last year when i was 15 years old i went into bulimia and i lost a lot of weight in such a short time. But that didnt stop me from doing good at school. I had problems with remembering things especially when it was time for tests or exams. My friends knew about it and they went straight to my parents and told them. I thought this was it, my life is over. So my mom was really scared she told the school blah blah blah. They said i needed help and needed to go see a doctor and a psychologist. So i did, the doctor said that all my organs where functioning well, it was only my period that stopped for a while. They also took me to a psychologist. It wasn't very helpful because i only had one session and that was it. I'm not that type of person that is really close to her parents and never was. I always feared revealing the truth to my parents. I stopped for a while but i kept purging and then stopped and went back. It was an unfinished cycle. So this year I'm in grade 11, I'm doing ib but my grades are really concerning. Teacher told my mom that i dont focus on class and my grades are not good. This year im finding difficulty to cope and study as my brain cant handle such huge information. I'm very depressed and I'm hopeless because i want to overcome this and be an excellent student. This is the reason why i didnt want to live is because I've been through so much that i cant handle it. I always think about my loved ones but still I'm very hopeless. I'm lost and i dont know whats good and bad for me . I need help!! Thank you.
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