Hello, I’m Phil and I am a Young Leader for the Mental Health Foundation and two years ago I took part in the Peer Education Project (PEP).
I found the PEP project to be a very rewarding experience as a Peer Educator. In the final 2 weeks of year 12, I was selected to be one of the educators, and we went through a day of training. During this session, we covered an overview of the entire programme, but we also learned key skills that were of use during the delivery of the lessons in the next academic year. For me, the classroom management skills became very useful. Taking part as a Peer Educator made me realize that I was interested in a career in teaching. I have been able to further these skills in part-time work alongside my University degree, by working in and out of schools as a tutor and working for my University on outreach visit days. The Peer Education Project realized this passion inside of me, and for that, I will always be grateful.
Furthermore, PEP is why I am here now. After the completion of the project, I was shown an advert for the Mental Health Foundation’s Young Leaders programme, and I applied. It's safe to say that I got the position and here I am. I have done some fantastic things as a Young Leader and I have learnt a great deal about not only my mental health but how to raise awareness for mental health in my communities. In particular, I was given a chance to contribute to the PEP project last year. I wrote up a Mindfulness exercise. The objective of the exercise was to allow participants to reflect on themselves and place themselves in a scenario that they entirely control. I felt very proud and honoured to be able to contribute to the project physically after it had changed my life so clearly.
The project also gave me a chance to connect with my peers in sixth form. I moved to a sixth-form college for my A-Level studies, one of only a few new people to attend (most carried on from high school). I ultimately found the experience to be quite lonely as I am quite a shy, introverted person with social anxieties. But, the project allowed me to make friendships with my peer educators that last to this day and gave me the public speaking skills and confidence that have led me into a place of leadership in and outside of my University studies.
In short, I am very grateful for my time as a Young Leader, and I look back upon my time and experience fondly. I believe that the programme raises the awareness of mental health better than any other I have seen, simply because student engagement is so high. The pupils I engaged with were keen and interested to speak to me, and my peers and we had meaningful and fulfilling conversations. If you are considering becoming a Peer Educator, go for it! You will gain lifelong skills and have experiences like no other.