R.E.A.C.T. — Peer Support

These are emotionally difficult times for young people. One sad statistic in New Hampshire is that suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year olds. In many of these deaths there were warning signs but family or friends may not have fully understood their seriousness or that anything would happen. If more people knew what to look for and what to do, some of those suicides can be prevented. Students can help.

The R.E.A.C.T. program trains older high school students to teach students in their school how to recognize and respond to signs of severe mental stress. In a sense, the student community learns to act as a lifeguard in episodes of severe mental stress. This program follows established mental health training protocols (National Council for Behavioral Health, ACT, QPR Institute).

Why are students, who are not professionals, being trained for such a sensitive issue? First, they are not being asked to give clinical care. They are looking for certain warning signs and to show they care. This is another application of “see something, say something.”

Second, they interact with each other every day and are in the best position to see or hear about a student in emotional trouble. This increases the odds that a severely distressed student will not fall through the cracks. Finally, students are often more willing to talk to their friends or peers about a deeply emotional issue than to a professional they don’t know.

R.E.A.C.T. teaches student leaders how to:

Recognize the warning signs of severe emotional or mental distress
Educate other students about the warning signs
Ask a struggling student how they’re feeling and if they want to talk
Care for them by offering support
Tell the student where to find a trusted adult