May 3, 2021, New York, NY — May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) recognizes this important month by calling attention to NKF Peers, a free mentoring program that matches people in late stage kidney disease, those on dialysis or living with a transplant, as well as living donors with mentors who provide one-on-one support to guide them through their kidney health journey. As COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continue to rise, NKF Peers is more important than ever because people with kidney disease and transplant recipients face a heightened risk for developing serious complications from COVID-19. In addition, people hospitalized with COVID-19 are developing kidney failure and becoming kidney patients. In these incredibly stressful times, the NKF Peers program is available to kidney patients seeking support, information, and understanding from someone who has been in a similar situation.
“The emotional toll of having kidney disease in the middle of a pandemic cannot be understated,” said Kevin Longino, CEO of the National Kidney Foundation and a kidney transplant recipient. “The NKF Peers mentoring program is a lifeline to kidney patients who might feel isolated and depressed due to their diagnosis. It is our goal at NKF to provide the support, education and resources needed to navigate life as a kidney patient and this mentoring program does that perfectly.”
NKF Peers offers both mentees and mentors a safe, anonymous way to connect via telephone or an in-app chat, so mentees maintain anonymity while asking questions freely. The phone-based app allows participants to only share their first names and gives the mentee the ability to select their own mentor based on criteria important to the individual participant such as age, gender, unique stage of kidney disease, type of dialysis treatment and more.
“This extremely supportive mentoring program was the only thing that helped me keep it together for the five weeks leading up to my transplant,” said Pato Paez, a NKF Peers Mentor who started out as a mentee. “I am honored to be a mentor today and help others feel less alone throughout their journey because it’s overwhelming and a little scary to have kidney disease and not really understand what is happening to your body. I’m deeply grateful for the support I received, and I hope I can offer that same level of support to someone else.” View a video featuring Pato sharing his experience.
Mentors undergo three comprehensive, interactive virtual training sessions prior to connecting with mentees over the phone. The topics covered during the trainings include: benefits of peer mentoring, confidentiality/HIPAA, self-awareness, empathy and active listening, relationship building, loss and grief, cultural diversity and sensitivity as well as role playing exercises.
NKF encourages anyone with late stage kidney disease, those on dialysis or living with a transplant, as well as living donors to contact NKF Peers via phone at 855-NKF-PEERS, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the online application. Join the conversation on social media during National Mental Health Awareness Month by using the hashtag #MentalHealthMonth.