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Program Spotlight: Here4Peers

Did you know that 70% of those living with mental illness report that symptoms began before age 18? [1] So with the start of school just around the corner, look for Here4Peers, our prevention program that provides youth with the tools and skills to strengthen their mental health. In 2022-23, Here4Peers reached 2825 students in Vancouver, Delta, Surrey and Richmond, training 144 student facilitators and 22 adult mentors. 

What is Here4Peers? Here4Peers is a youth-driven, evidence-based awareness and skill-building program that trains grades 10-12 high school students to facilitate mental health workshops for grade 7 students. Here4Peers partners with several School Districts, including Vancouver, Surrey, Delta, and Richmond, fostering a collaborative and widespread approach to mental health education and support for youth in these regions.

How does it work? The Here4Peers Program recruits and trains high school students to become Here4Peers Youth Facilitators. As young people often turn to peers first when facing personal challenges, providing a team of trained and supervised “peer” youth facilitators is an intentional way to engage and normalize conversations regarding mental health. These Youth Facilitators then facilitate the Here4Peers Youth Mental Health Awareness workshop in teams of three for grade 7 students experiencing both a transition into adolescence and a transition to high school. The workshops are designed to be fun and interactive, utilizing challenges, games, discussion groups, and media to engage participants. 

What are the goals? The Here4Peers Workshop goals are to diminish attitudes of stigma, increase awareness of mental health issues and coping tools, encourage peer-to-peer supportive responses, and improve access to resources. Since 2017, over 701 Youth Facilitators have been trained to deliver the workshop, and over 446 Here4Peers Workshops have been delivered during this time. In 2022-2023, the program reached 2825 students across the Greater Vancouver Region, up from 992 in 2021-2022. 

What is the impact? The impact of Here4Peers is clear. Teachers and students alike have praised the program for its effectiveness. As one Here4Peers Youth Facilitator put it, “Whenever I finish a workshop, I always feel that I made a difference in somebody’s life. I may not give all the solutions to their problems, but I feel that I left a mark and impacted them.” A Gr.7 teacher added, “Here4Peers is an incredible program that informs and educates students about mental health issues and supports. I love that it is peer-driven. Keep it up!” And Ashley Currie, the Here4Peers Program Coordinator, summed it up best: “By raising awareness, naming it, providing options and dialogue around strengthening mental health and protective factors, and pointing students toward trusted resources, Here4Peers operates where current systems cannot – before the onset of significant mental health issues.” 

Looking ahead: The Canadian Mental Health Association, Vancouver-Fraser branch is your partner from prevention to recovery. As part of our branch’s 3-year strategic plan for network collaboration, innovative programming and capacity growth, our team is working hard to expand the Here4Peers program into new school districts and bring our evidenced-based prevention programs to even more students! Stay tuned for an update on the Sooke expansion in our next newsletter!

Get involved!: If you’re looking for a way to make a positive impact in the lives of children and youth in our community, consider donating to our branch. Your contribution will help us continue to provide impactful programs like Here4Peers to those who need it most. With your support, we can reach young people from all backgrounds who may be struggling with mental health challenges in the Greater Vancouver region and provide them with the tools they need to overcome these obstacles. Thank you for your generosity!

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