It is no secret that college students can be heavily influenced by the attitudes and behaviors of their peers.
With this in mind, West Virginia University WELLWVU developed the leadWELL Peer Mentor program as a way for WVU student leaders to have a positive impact on the health behaviors and wellness attitudes of their peers.
In the fall of 2010, more than 100 residence hall students went through the leadWELL training program and took on the responsibility of promoting healthy behaviors through effective conversations with fellow students.
leadWELL mentors have been trained in how to identify healthy and unhealthy behaviors across several domains: alcohol and other drug use, stress and sleep issues, sexual health, relationship and dating violence and body image and nutrition concerns.
Now in its second full semester, the program has fully cemented itself in each residence hall as an opportunity for leadWELL mentors to make WVU a healthier place to live.
The program officially began in September 2010 when a select group of students were identified by residence hall leadership teams as peer leaders and invited to an information session. From those sessions, leadWELL mentors were chosen to be part of a new student-led health and wellness initiative on campus.
Currently, each residence hall has its own leadWELL team of mentors and a leadWELL trainer. The trainers consist of Carruth Center interns, WELLWVU graduate assistants and other health behavior specialists and were responsible for leading their hall training session.
The interactive and experiential training provided leadWELL mentors with the education, health behavior knowledge, communication strategies and resource information to have effective conversations with students engaging in high-risk behaviors. It taught students how to identify positive and negative behaviors, important leadership qualities, effective communication strategies and campus resources.
During the training, mentors discussed topics such as the importance of non-verbal behavior, the value of peer-to-peer communication and what it would be like to have a conversation with a fellow college student about health behaviors. Mentors also had the opportunity to role-play situations that they might encounter over the course of the school year. After the training, mentors agreed to take on the responsibility to speak to friends and peers about health-related issues whenever they felt comfortable doing so.
WELLWVU Graduate Assistant and Boreman Hall leadWELL Trainer Jesse Michel thinks if there is going to be a culture shift towards better health and wellness on campus, it is the students’ responsibility to make it happen.
“The leadWELL program is something we hope will spread like wildfire around campus,” he said. “We want students to be a part of the program and envision a time where leadWELL mentors can be identified throughout their residence halls. We want students to know that it’s okay to be healthy and that there are free resources around campus if they want to live a happier and healthier lifestyle.There is a direct correlation in how knowledgeable students are about campus resources and their physical, emotional and mental health.”
The program has been implemented in all 12 residence halls and there are plans to provide the one-time training to leaders of student organizations, the Greek and Panhellenic system and captains of WVU athletic teams in the near future.
For more information, contact Colleen Harshbarger, WELL WVU Director of Wellness and Health Promotion, at 304-293-5054 or Jesse Michel, WELL WVU graduate assistant, at Jesse.Michel@mail.wvu.edu .
CONTACT: Colleen Harshbarger, WELL WVU