The impact of peer mentoring on students’ physical activity and mental health

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Abstract

Purpose
A peer-mentoring scheme was implemented in a secondary school using a physical activity (PA) intervention to improve mental health outcomes of students who were at risk of developing mental ill health. These students are referred to as mentees. The evaluation was a qualitative design using focus groups and semi-structured interviews. The participants reported an increase in PA in both peer mentors and mentees. By the end of the project many of the mentees recognised that they had increased their levels of PA, they were more aware of the benefits of PA and the relationship between PA and their mental health. In addition, mentees reported feeling more confident and were more confident in forming social relationships. Peer mentors reported developing many leadership skills during the project. These included improved communication, confidence, empathy for others, relationship building and improved self-awareness. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach
Qualitative data were primarily collected from nine case study schools. Each visit included interviews with peer mentors, mentees and the Wellbeing Champion.

Findings
Mentees developed improved social confidence and were generally more positive after completing the intervention. Mentors developed leadership skills and greater empathy for their peers.

Originality/value
There is limited research on school-based PA interventions using peer mentoring to improve students’ mental health.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Public Mental Health
Early online date18 Oct 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2019

Keywords

  • mental health
  • physical activity
  • peer mentoring

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