College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Peer Support through Coronavirus Isolation

Posted on Thursday, March 26th, 2020

Student journaling

The Coronavirus has forced the Center for Violence Prevention and several Iowa’s school districts to postpone Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Student Leadership Summits this spring in Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Davenport and Marshalltown - impacting over 1,100 student mentors from 18 schools in those surrounding areas.

While we’ll miss the opportunity to come together and discuss the various ways student leaders can positively influence peer relationships and school culture, we know our almost 5000 trained MVP mentors can still play an incredibly important role in supporting and encouraging healthy behaviors and positive attitudes among peers. Especially as they become more engaged and absorbed in social media and other digital communication mediums.

Recently I shared the following tips with our mentors that might be useful to any student eager to help support their peers while respecting social distancing.  

  1. Check-in with friends who may be anxious or nervous during times of isolation and diminished “connectedness” that school life once provided. Set up and schedule times to FaceTime or Zoom. Make it a reoccurring event.
  2. Touch base with younger mentees/friends/neighbors and ask them how they’re occupying their time away from school. Suggest books to read or movies to watch.
  3. Send out daily affirmations on the power of positivity and respect; messages and songs from favorite artists; humorous stories and memes that bring levity and perspective during these stressful times.
  4. Pay attention to any social media messages from friends, classmates or teammates, or within broader social circles that communicate repetitive thoughts of anxiety, negativity, sadness or low self-esteem. Reach out to those friends who are struggling; listen to them; ask them what help or support they might need; talk to a parent or contact your school counselor should concerns arise.
  5. Begin journaling. Encourage friends and peers to journal, as well. Write a poem and send it to a loved one and/or family member.
  6. Remind peers and mentees to practice good hygiene: wash hands frequently; practice physical distancing; avoid crowds; and stay home until the threat of spreading the Coronavirus subsides.
  7. Check-in with local churches and food pantries - find out what needs they might have and be prepared to organize friends to gather items such as: food, clothing, personal supplies, craft items, books, etc.

What other advice or ideas come to mind? Please share!

Be safe and be well.

Alan Heisterkamp, Ed.D.
Director, Center for Violence Prevention and MVP Leadership Institute


facebook iconUNI.CenterforViolencePrevention

facebook iconUNI-MentorsinViolencePrevention