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Peer Mentorship and Mental Wellbeing

How can Peer Mentorship Promote Mental Wellbeing?

What is mental wellbeing?


"Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community"

World Health Organization

"Good mental health buffers us from the stresses and hardships that are part of life for us all, and can help to reduce the risk of developing mental health problems and illnesses. Even when someone develops a mental health problem or illness, they can nevertheless experience good mental health and this can contribute to their journey of recovery."

Canadian Mental Health Commission

"A holistic approach to mental health is inclusive of emotional, social, and psychological well-being."


The Mental Health Continuum 

Mental health and mental wellbeing can be thought of as two separate, but related, concepts. The mental health continuum model acknowledges that mental health and mental wellbeing can fluctuate from one end of a spectrum to another. The model separates mental health and mental illness from social wellbeing, suggesting that individuals diagnosed with mental illnesses can still experience positive mental wellbeing.


Figure from the Alberta Post-Secondary Mental Health and Addiction Framework


The Role of Peer Mentorship

Peer mentorship, whether through a formal program or informal relationships with your classmates, can promote positive mental wellbeing.

The vision of the University of Calgary Campus Mental Health Strategy is “to be a community where we care for each other, learn and talk about mental health and well-being, receive support as needed, and where individually and collectively we realize our potential”. Peer mentoring can be one way to support positive mental wellbeing, especially among graduate students. Graduate studies can be highly individualized, leading graduate students to feel of isolated and disconnected from their peers. Developing a strong culture of peer mentoring at the University of Calgary can help us work toward a campus community that is caring, supportive, and connected.



Watch testimonials from students about the impacts of peer mentoring on their mental wellbeing. Video courtesy of the University of Hertfordshire.

These resources have been selected to help you:

  • Understand mental wellbeing in graduate education, including factors that support or inhibit positive mental wellbeing;
  • Understand how peer support and peer mentoring can promote positive mental wellbeing among graduate students.

Empirical Studies

El-Ghoroury, N. H., Galper, D. I., Sawaqdeh, A., & Bufka, L. F. (2012). Stress, coping, and barriers to wellness among psychology graduate studentsTraining and Education in Professional Psychology6(2), 122.

Evans, T. M., Bira, L., Gastelum, J. B., Weiss, L. T., & Vanderford, N. L. (2018). Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education. Nature biotechnology36(3), 282. 

Janta, H., Lugosi, P., & Brown, L. (2014). Coping with loneliness: A netnographic study of doctoral students. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 38(4), 553-571. 

Mousavi, M. P., Sohrabpour, Z., Anderson, E. L., Stemig-Vindedahl, A., Golden, D., Christenson, G., ... & Bühlmann, P. (2018). Stress and mental health in graduate school: How student empowerment creates lasting change. Journal of Chemical Education95(11), 1939-1946.

Mackie, S., & Bates, G. (2019). Contribution of the doctoral education environment to PhD candidates' mental health problems: A scoping review. Higher Education Research & Development, 38(3), 565-578. 

Raj, K. S. (2016). Well-being in residency: a systematic review. Journal of graduate medical education8(5), 674-684.

Colvin, J. W., & Ashman, M. (2010). Roles, risks, and benefits of peer mentoring relationships in higher education. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning18(2), 121-134. 

Grant-Vallone, E. J., & Ensher, E. A. (2000). Effects of peer mentoring on types of mentor support, program satisfaction and graduate student stress. Journal of College Student Development41(6), 637–642.

Lee, R. M., Robbins, S. B. (2000). Understanding social connectedness in college women and men. Journal of Counseling and Development. 78, 484-491. 

McIntyre J. C., Worsley J., Corcoran R., Harrison Woods P., Bentall R. P. (2018). Academic and non-academic predictors of student psychological distress: The role of social identity and loneliness. Journal of Mental Health. 27(3), 230-9.