Peer Education & Support During COVID-19

Educational Opportunities with Peers: Coping

Types of Programming

  • Depending on the setting, there can be a wide variety of opportunities to learn how to cope effectively with COVID-19 related stressors
  • According to one study[1] ...
    • Drop-in skills groups, when implemented, can be helpful but can also be underutilized
    • Programs and classes by request are generally better received, to match demand and need
    • It is particularly important for units and departments with high numbers of COVID-19 related deaths have opportunities to learn how to cope effectively
  • Other studies have discussed the benefits of teaching healthcare workers different ways to mitigate mental health consequences for healthcare workers responding to disasters (including COVID-19)[2]
  • Managers and supervisors need to be part of this solution, as it often requires their support to get programming implemented.
    • Ask about the availability of classes, or ability for mental health professionals to come and teach effective coping skills
    • Ask how these types of opportunities could be developed

Feature: The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Self-Help Plus (SH+) Program

  • "This program may be ideal for addressing the elevated psychological stress at risks of burnout and mental distress among health care workers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), which can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and combines elements of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) including psychoeducation, mindfulness exercises, and promoting psychological flexibility. Individuals learn new ways to open up and cope with difficult thoughts and feelings, rather than avoiding them."[3]
  • "Self-Help Plus (SH+) is WHO’s 5-session stress management course for large groups of up to 30 people. It is delivered by supervised, non-specialist facilitators who complete a short training course and use pre-recorded audio and an illustrated guide (Doing What Matters in Times of Stress) to teach stress management skills. The course is suitable for adults who experiences stress, wherever they live and whatever their circumstances. It has been shown to reduce psychological distress and prevent the onset of mental disorders. The format of SH+ makes it well-suited for use alongside other mental health interventions, as a first step in a stepped care programme, or as a community intervention delivered alongside broader community programming."
WHO Self-Help Plus (SH+)
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Peer Support

What Is Helpful?

  • "Peer support can overall be beneficial for improving mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic and may be an effective tool should similar events arise in the future."[4]
  • According to researchers at Yale, a new online, culturally based support program, CHATogether, may serve as an effective peer support model during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. This program provides groups made up of people with similar experiences and challenges and participants are able to provide emotional support to another
  • Virtual support, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when many feel pressure to avoid in-personal socialization, can be particularly beneficial for engaging in peer support
    • For example, the Virtual Grief Support App was created to provide free virtual grief support for those who have lost loved ones, sorted by type of loss experienced
YouTube video.

A New Free "Virtual Grief Support" Mobile App For People Grieving The Loss of Loved-Ones To or During The Coronavirus Pandemic.

  • Several educational and healthcare systems have developed and used numerous forms of peer support programs
    • For example: Columbia University Medical Center: established peer support groups, 1:1 peer support sessions, and town hall sessions

Feature: Johns Hopkins Medicine - RISE (Resilience in Stressful Events)

    • This program trains hospitals and healthcare settings to offer peer-to-peer, confidential, nonjudgmental support to healthcare workers during stressful times.
    • This program has been adopted by many different healthcare organizations
    • Basis of the program: Available 24/7, volunteer peer responders carry a pager and respond within a half-hour. Responders try to appear on-scene, during the same shift, to provide psychological first aid (PFA).
    • Ask your supervisor or manager about opportunities to start something like this at your workplace, if it does not already exist
YouTube video.

Caring for Caregivers, is a peer support program for medical professionals who feel traumatized by a patient-related event. The Caring for the Caregiver solution provides guidance on setting up the program, teaches a multi-disciplinary team of volunteers to respond and support a team member involved in an unanticipated patient event, stressful situation, or patient-related injury and who is himself or herself “traumatized” by the event, and provides ongoing support to organizations implementing the program

Learn more by visiting


  1. O’Hayer C, Nobleza D, Inch S, et al. Behavioral health for the front line: Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. NEJM Catalyst Innovations in Care Delivery. 2021; 2(7):
  2. Buselli R, Corsi M, Veltri A, et al. Mental health of Health Care Workers (HCWs): a review of organizational interventions put in place by local institutions to cope with new psychosocial challenges resulting from COVID-19. Psychiatry Res. 2021;299:113847.  [PMID:33721785]
  3. Søvold LE, Naslund JA, Kousoulis AA, et al. Prioritizing the Mental Health and Well-Being of Healthcare Workers: An Urgent Global Public Health Priority. Front Public Health. 2021;9:679397.  [PMID:34026720]
  4. Suresh R, Alam A, Karkossa Z. Using Peer Support to Strengthen Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Review. Front Psychiatry. 2021;12:714181.  [PMID:34322045]
Last updated: November 3, 2021