GEMS launches peer-to-peer wellbeing programmes
GEMS has launched peer-to-peer wellbeing programmes with trained GEMS Education school students working alongside experts to offer mental health advice to any peers who are struggling. The initiative is inspired by the National Strategy for Wellbeing 2031 adopted by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
One such programme is being carried out at GEMS Metropole School titled ‘Teen-to-Teen Mental Health First Aiders’ (MHFA), where students provide confidential one-to-one sessions to help mentor their peers who are encountering difficulties under the supervision of the school counsellors as well as trained staff. All mentors have completed the Teen Mental Health First Aid training through Lighthouse Arabia, a leading centre for wellbeing.
Naveed Iqbal, Principal/CEO at GEMS Metropole School, said: “The year 2020 will be remembered as one of the most testing ever for the mental wellbeing of students, with many struggling to adapt to the many challenges that the pandemic brought with it. MHFA has already proven to be a great success among students, where many often feel more comfortable sharing concerns with their peers, while others can relate better to anxiety and stress and are volunteering to help their colleagues.”
Similarly, two Grade 12 students at GEMS Modern Academy, Diya Bansal and Dia Zavery, launched a web platform called ‘Unravelling Thoughts’ (unravellingthoughtsgma.com) where middle and senior school students can anonymously share their thoughts with Lighthouse Arabia-trained student volunteers and school counsellors to help relieve anxieties, concerns, and stress.
Diya Bansal explained: “This unprecedented situation resulted in limited social interactions, increased use of technology as well as students feeling isolated and scared of the unknown. We felt a sounding board was needed now more than ever, with the stressful situations of a ‘new norm’ of education and lifestyle. Our strategy involves listening to struggling students and help them come up with their own solutions.”
Reflecting on the success of the programme, Dia Zavery said: “Having such a platform became of paramount importance so that students are able to freely express themselves and seek help when they needed it. We also launched a series of one-minute videos covering topics such as self-expression, self-affirmations, kindness, anti-bullying, cyber-bullying, academic pressure, interpersonal conflicts, among others.”
Sara Hedger, Vice President – Safeguarding and Child Protection at GEMS Education, adds: “GEMS schools had to re-imagine schooling in an incredible short period of time, not only from the academic viewpoint but trying to support positive wellbeing for students, parents and staff. Schools very rightly and effectively turned to their students to provide ideas and innovation and help guide the adults to how best they could be supported through the pandemic and sustainably into the future. The resulting wellbeing and mental health programmes that have been co-developed and implemented with students and staff are positively contributing to student wellbeing across the group.”