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Value of peer support in campus environments

The uniqueness of a value-based approach to mental health care allows for flexibility, adaptability and responsiveness to the vast array of student needs. Peer support services allow students to receive support from trusted, trained and capable peers. These peer supporters understand the environment in which students are experiencing challenges and can speak from their own direct experience of overcoming these challenges. Peer support programs that involve students supporting students allow these individuals to be trained and empowered. They also enable students to engage in their campus environment while providing meaningful and impactful mental health support to their peers. Utilizing the student body to support campus mental health also helps to alleviate the pressures placed on existing campus mental health supports.

Needs Assessment

Getting buy-in from executives

Below are some arguments that you can present to your decision-makers when it comes to making the case for a new peer support program on campus:

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Improve the continuum of care and relieve counselling services

Peer support complements other on-campus mental health services by meeting students where they are. These programs also have the potential to decrease wait times for more
traditional supports, such as one-on-one counselling services. Expanding available service options makes it easier to reach more students and relieves some of the demand on counselling services by servicing individuals who do not need, or are not ready to fully engage in, the psychotherapy process. Lastly, peer support programs have the potential of reaching students earlier, which can help prevent their mental health concerns from getting worse.
 

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Better connection to resources on campus

Students are often more comfortable seeking support and guidance from their peers over professional counselling services. As a result, peer programs can be a way of connecting students to the many resources and services that exist on campus by being able reach students who wouldn’t seek out professional counselling services.
 

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The many benefits

The efficacy and validity of peer support services can be illustrated to decision-makers by sharing research that demonstrates how accessing these programs leads to positive outcomes such as improved daily functioning and a decreased need for more intensive
mental health services. The overall theory of peer support states that when students feel more supported, they are more likely to remain engaged in their academics and achieve graduation. Those benefits are not limited to the students accessing peer support services, but also benefit the overall mental health services on campus and the peer staff themselves.[1]The Value of Peer Support – CMHA Waterloo Wellington Peer supporters will be equipped with transferable skills that they can use in other campus roles, in their lives outside of campus and in their future careers.
 

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The bottom line

There is a potential cost savings for campuses that comes with reaching students faster and with less-costly resources.

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Guide: PDF Version