We all need somebody to lean on
Students at UBC’s Okanagan campus now have a safe and confidential space to speak with a peer about any challenges, struggles, or personal hardships they face.
The Peer Support Network (PSN) is a student volunteer-led initiative. Coordinator and founder Alexa Geddes says the PSN mandate is to ensure that no student feels alone. The network also serves as a resource centre, increasing awareness of mental health and wellness within both the campus and greater community.
“I am very passionate about the Peer Support Network,” says Geddes, a fourth-year honors bachelor of science student in the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences. “Through my current role as a student researcher with the VOICE project (a campus-wide initiative focused on health-promoting campus change) and my past position as a residence advisor, I realized the need for more mental health services on campus, especially at a student level. And as a result of my own mental health challenges I wanted to develop a program so other students do not have to struggle alone.”
The PSN offers a drop-in space from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in the Upper Level Collegium (UNC 335), third floor of the UNC building, across from the Health and Wellness Centre. Students can also reach out to the Peer Support Network through email firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook, or Twitter.
The PSN is a paraprofessional service, which means volunteers of the network will not diagnose or treat mental illness, notes Geddes. Instead, they provide welcoming, confidential, and empathetic peer-based support using active listening and resource referral.
The Peer Support Network is supported by the University of British Columbia Student Union Okanagan (UBCSUO). It is operated by an advisory committee made up of UBC staff, faculty and more than a dozen student volunteers. The Canadian Mental Health Association in Kelowna is also assisting with the project, providing training for all of the volunteers.