Helping young people to empower themselves
in managing stress and thriving with their peers
In 2022, the need for a peer-to-peer adaptation of our evidence-based Stress Lessons program was identified by the Mental Health Lead of Trillium Lakelands District School Board. In addition to supporting teachers in implementing the knowledge learned from our well-known Stress Lessons professional development, this adaptation empowers students, providing them with opportunities to develop their leadership skills by mentoring their peers on our program.
Through generous funding from the RBC Foundation we were able to recruit an RBC Stress Lessons Ambassador to make this exciting vision a reality, with guidance from psychologist and committee member, Dr. Ester Cole, and Stress Lessons Lead Trainer, Anne Murray, for the content adaptation (see their Bios below). We are now in the process of developing and testing a pilot version of the peer-to-peer model this November in partnership with Gravenhurst High School in Muskoka.
Meet Lanaya, our RBC Stress Lessons Ambassador who will tell you
more about the Peer Mentor project
Hello! My name is Lanaya LaRose, and I am the RBC Stress Lessons Ambassador. I am a third-year psychology major at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) who is passionate about the field of Industrial-Organizational (IO) psychology. In the future, I aim to help promote mental health efforts in organizations because I believe that everyone has the right to feel safe and productive in their work environments. Additionally, I come from a background in sports coaching, where I work with children and youth from all over the GTA to help them achieve their sport-related goals. However, I would also like to help children and youth succeed in other areas of their daily lives, which is what drew me to this unique opportunity. That said, I am very excited to join the team and help positively impact the psychology of Canadian kids!
“We believe in the power of community and will engage in strategic partnerships to ensure that as many young people as possible can benefit from our Stress Lesson Peer Mentor program.” -Lanaya LaRose, RBC Stress Lessons Ambassador
How did you adapt our Stress Lessons Grades 9-12: Tools for Resiliency program content into a resource high school students can use to become Peer Mentors?
“When approaching the content adaptation for the peer-to-peer resources, the primary aim was to maintain the integrity and depth of the original Stress Lessons Grades 9-12 Tools for Resiliency guide while making it more approachable for today's youth. Instead of revamping the entire guide, I decided to develop supplementary materials that work in tandem with the original content, ensuring a thorough understanding. I designed the Peer Mentor Tip Booklet to offer peer mentors a youth-friendly handbook that would equip them with practical advice and strategies to create an empathetic and supportive environment. It bridges the gap between the more academic content of the Stress Lessons guide and the day-to-day experiences of teens—ensuring that the material remains both engaging and relatable. In addition to the booklet, two infographics were designed to distill essential insights from the booklet into a more concise format. These visual aids are particularly beneficial for those moments when peer mentors need quick references and do not have the time to sift through the entire booklet. This adaptation was about preserving the original guide's value while ensuring it spoke the language of its intended youthful audience.”
Can you describe the development of the peer-to-peer training for the upcoming pilot at Gravenhurst High School?
“When developing the peer-to-peer training for Gravenhurst High School, we centred our approach around the unique dynamics of teenage interactions. The six comprehensive stress lessons are central to the training, designed to equip peer mentors with knowledge and techniques to recognize, manage, and communicate about stress. The decision to co-develop and lead the training with Bre, one of the experienced Stress Lesson trainers, was influenced by their profound grasp of the content and material. This partnership ensured that we maintained the essence of the lessons while fine-tuning them for youth engagement. We condensed the training duration and included more interactive activities to cater to the younger audience's attention span and engagement levels. Furthermore, we enriched the content with relatable examples that resonate with the everyday experiences of youth. This approach was chosen because we believe that for information to be effective, especially for teenagers, it must be concise, engaging, and reflective of their daily lives. Through this method, we aimed to foster genuine understanding and enthusiasm among peer mentors, empowering them to support their peers meaningfully.”
What skills and knowledge can Peer Mentors expect to learn when they take this training?
“Peer Mentors in grades 9-12, can anticipate a comprehensive understanding of stress and its manifestations in daily life through the Stress Lessons peer-to-peer training. They’ll be equipped with the skills to recognize stressors in themselves and others and apply effective coping strategies. Additionally, they will gain invaluable facilitation skills, empowering them to lead and guide their peers in meaningful discussions about managing stress. The training also emphasizes the importance of empathy and support—helping Peer Mentors become guides and trustworthy allies in their peers' stress management journeys.”
After the pilot with Gravenhurst is done in the Fall, and we get feedback, what are you hoping to see moving forward, and how are you planning to help expand the peer-to-peer model to other schools and organizations in 2024?
“After our pilot with Gravenhurst concludes in the Fall, we are eager to gather feedback and insights to refine and enhance the training. Moving forward, our vision is to see widespread adoption of this peer-to-peer model, extending its reach to various schools and organizations in 2024. Additionally, we believe in the power of community and will engage in strategic partnerships to ensure that as many young people as possible can benefit from this initiative.”
If you could say something encouraging to teens about coping with their stressors, what might that be?
“Every teen should remember that it is completely natural to feel overwhelmed by stressors at times. However, it is crucial to understand that stress does not reflect your capability or worth. Embracing the journey of understanding and managing stress can lead to immense personal growth. Always remember that challenges and stressors are temporary, but the skills and resilience you build will last a lifetime. You are not alone in this journey, and with the right tools and support, you can confidently navigate life's challenges.”
After the results from the pilot this Fall, the next steps will be to expand the Stress Lessons peer-to-peer to other schools in 2024. Stay tuned!
Dr. Ester Cole is a psychologist in private practice, and a strong advocate of SMSKPC. For many years , she was a supervising psychologist at the Toronto Board of Education, promoting multicultural services. Her work has focused extensively on supporting students, educators, and families across communities. She taught as an adjunct professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/ UT and at York University. She was a multi-year consultant to the former NGO, The International Children’s Institute, which supported the adjustment of refugee children in schools. Dr. Cole has written and co-authored numerous research and advocacy articles in recognised journals and professional publications; edited books, and has served on editorial boards. She has lectured in several countries, and has been a member/advisor of various committees and task forces focusing on mental health program development for children and youth. Her multi-year advocacy for equity, diversity and inclusion, has been embedded in her leadership positions nationally, and in the USA. She was the President of the Canadian Association of School Psychologists, President of OPA, and Chair of the Psychology Foundation of Canada (PFC), and its Parenting for Life Program. She currently serves on SMSKPC's program committee, and on the professional advisory council. At OPA, she was chair-Disaster Response Network, and the Canadian Representative on the APA/DRN Advisory Committee. She is a member of CPA- Professional Affairs & Human Rights and Social Justice Committees, among others. At APA, she served on the Council of Representatives , and was a member of the Board of Professional Affairs. She currently services as a member of the APA Commission for the Recognition of Specialties and Subspecialties in Professional Psychology (CRSSPP)".
Anne Murray has a Masters in Education and has worked for many years as a Registered Nurse. She has a broad interest in families, focusing on creating resilient schools and communities. She works with families, educators and youth, coaching and facilitating ways to recognize, reduce and develop strategies for managing the stressors in their lives. Since 1999 she has been instrumental in the development of the Kids Have Stress Too! Program initiated by the Psychology Foundation of Canada. Anne is the Lead Trainer providing training, program development and building partnerships, with a focus to reduce stress in our children and youth. Anne is a Life Coach and shares her passion for improving the mental health of children faced with the challenges of living in a fast paced, highly technical world with changing family dynamics. Her learning has been enhanced with parenting three, now adult sons, being a grandmother, and being actively involved in community life. Anne is also involved with families in the community that have children with developmental disabilities, with the goal to build inclusive communities and embrace the strength of diversity.
We would also like to thank RBC Foundation for helping us to provide our French Stress Lesson program guides with NEW French asynchronous training, as well as our French Open Call training at no cost to French educators this year. Click on the links to find out more!
Generous funding provided by