News 9 August

XenZone Wins Funding to Develop Peer-to-Peer Support

Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) Healthcare Awards XenZone £100k to Train Young People to Offer Mental Health Support to Peers

XenZone, UK pioneer of online counselling and emotional wellbeing support, has been awarded £100k to support and train a new cohort of young online peer supporters through a specially-developed multi-media learning portal. The innovative UK project is supported by SBRI Healthcare, an NHS England initiative, led by the Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), and aims to reduce the pressure on specialist services and address the stigma associated with mental health by helping young people offer supervised online support to peers.

A team of experienced XenZone clinicians are working closely with young peer supporters in Lincolnshire and Manchester as they shape and develop the digital training, moderation and supervision programme. Training will encompass four main training elements: volunteering and participation, health and wellbeing, personal skills development and helping others. It will be linked to Kooth, XenZone’s established online counselling and emotional wellbeing support service for children and young people.

As they begin the course, trainees will select a unique avatar on the Kooth platform and will work towards virtual badges and trophies as they move through the programme.

A bronze award will be given at three months, a silver after six months and a gold award will be awarded after twelve months. This will allow the trainee to complete one level at a time, taking time out if needed, for exams, for example.

The trainee peer supporters will have ongoing supervision and support to help them on and off the Kooth platform and will also have full access to an e-learning library with varied and tiered learning, including written guides, quizzes and video learning resources to guide them through their training.

They will have their volunteering hours logged and certificated and an accredited qualification to show for their work.

XenZone, which established its British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)-accredited Kooth service 14 years ago, believes the project will lead to better mental health, with young people being more likely to ask for help from peers. It sees peer-to-peer support benefitting the peer supporters themselves, the people they help and the communities they are in as coping strategies and counselling skills are learned and shared.

For the duration of the project, XenZone will work closely with South East Health Technologies Alliance (SEHTA), which will help run stakeholder consultation exercises with healthcare professionals to co-develop and test the Kooth Peer Supporter Programme proposition. It is also working with MindTech at the Institute of Mental Health, Nottingham, to ensure there is a clear path to evaluate the service.

XenZone’s Online Director Gerry Johnson, who is leading the project, commented: “We believe there is huge potential in empowering young people to support their peers, if carefully moderated by professionals. To have a team of knowledgeable and engaged young people on the site helping other young people could be transformational. We’re always striving to help people better understand and manage their mental health; this innovative programme helps us go a step further and involve young people themselves in the therapeutic process.”