Peer education

Peer education

Peer education

  • Peers play an important role in the lives of young people
  • Peer education workshops support young people to teach their peers about mental health
  • Jigsaw’s “It’s Time to Start Talking” peer education programme improves young people’s intentions to seek help and their mental health knowledge.

Peers play an important role in young people’s lives. Young people are most likely to seek support from their friends. Their behaviour is often heavily influenced by their peer group.

Peer education is a health promotion approach that uses peer networks to deliver educational and skill-building material to promote health and wellbeing.

The use of peer-to-peer education for young people has grown in popularity recently. It is believed to be a more cost-effective method for health promotion. These programmes can also be an effective means of promoting youth mental health within peer groups.

Taking part in the workshops increases students’ help-seeking intentions. It also improves their mental health knowledge.

Jigsaw peer education

Jigsaw has developed two peer education programmes:

  1. It’s Time to Start Talking (ITTST) for adolescents in post-primary school
  2. 5 a day for Mental Health (5 a day) for young people in third-level education.

Both programmes were developed with the help and input of young people. Through these programmes, trained peer educators deliver mental health workshops to groups of young people within their school or college.

Benefits of peer education training

Jigsaw’s ITTST is a 40-minute workshop that focuses on promoting help-seeking behaviours. It encourages young people to talk to someone they trust when they don’t feel OK. The workshop also explores how to identify trusted informal information.

Evaluations of ‘It’s Time to Start Talking’ show that taking part in the workshops increases students’ help-seeking intentions. It also improves their mental health knowledge.

Training as a peer educator with Jigsaw also appears to benefit young people. After taking part, young people have better mental health knowledge, presentation skills and less self-stigma for seeking help.

Peer educators also report they enjoy the training. They value having the chance to learn new skills while socialising and working with other students is of huge value to young people.

Reports and publications

O’Reilly, A., Barry, J., Neary, M., Lane, S., & O’Keeffe, L. (2016)

An evaluation of participation in a schools-based youth mental health peer education training programme.

Advances In School Mental Health Promotion, 9(2), 107-118.


Rogers, J., O'Reilly, A., Donnelly, A., Clerkin, A., Connolly, A., & Waldron, M. (2016)

Findings from an Evaluation of the Jigsaw Peer Education Programme: Summary Report. Dublin: Jigsaw, The National Centre for Youth Mental Health

Download pdf of full report.