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Peer Support Groups for Students

In response to a need expressed by many teachers and school administrators, in 2014 the Caring Place launched its newest initiative — peer support groups for grieving students held right in their own schools.

The program provides a safe environment in which participants are with peers who are also grieving and where they are able to express their feelings related to the death and to share memories of the person who died.

Through this process, the children learn they are not alone, they become familiar with peers in their school who understand what they are going through so they can go to them for support if needed, and they learn healthy coping mechanisms.

The program was developed to address non-complicated grief of children and teens in elementary, middle and high schools within the school setting. Designed as a training model, Caring Place staff initially facilitate the group while teaching designated school personnel how to run the program themselves as the need for future groups arises in their school.

Did You Know?

A recent study conducted jointly by the American Federation of Teachers and the New York Life Foundation (2012) indicated that classroom teachers surveyed reported that students who have lost a parent or guardian typically exhibit:

  • Difficulty concentrating in class (observed by 87 percent of teachers)
  • Withdrawal/disengagement and less class participation (82 percent of teachers)
  • Absenteeism (72 percent of teachers)
  • Decrease in quality of work (68 percent of teachers)
  • Less reliability in turning in assignments (66 percent of teachers)

Which students can benefit from the program? Students who:

  • Have had a family member or friend die at any point of time in their lives
  • Have been identified by a designated staff person at their school as appropriate for a school-based group
  • Are not suffering from untreated symptoms of trauma related to the death
  • Can function appropriately in a peer support group
  • Have been given permission by their parent/guardian to participate in the group

Eighty-eight percent of teachers surveyed believe that the support of classmates and friends is important to a grieving student’s healing process.

How does a school become involved in the program? Any school interested in becoming involved in the program can contact the Highmark Caring Place School Services Coordinator in their area:

Pittsburgh region
Eric Lewis

Warrendale region
Shawn Sledzianowski

Erie region
Jonathan Williams

Harrisburg region
Barry Sloane