Peer Support Centre launches Oct. 1

UVSS unveils new peer-to-peer support system

In January, the UVSS unveiled another mental health project — the yellow “friendship bench” — aimed at removing stigma around mental health. Photo by Belle White, Photo Editor.

As of Oct. 1, UVic students now have a designated safe space on campus where they can talk openly with their peers about mental health issues.

The Peer Support Centre (PSC) gives students the opportunity to have peer-to-peer support from fellow students as they adjust to university life.

“PSC is a space where students can come to talk or to sort through resources. Our tagline is ‘confidential, non-judgemental, and empathetic’ and that’s exactly what you can expect from any conversations you’d have within our space,” said Ainsley Kerr, UVSS Director of Campaigns and Community Relations.

The PSC was first spearheaded by former Director of Campaigns and Community Relations Anmol Swaich after a series of conversations with students on campus who were struggling with mental health challenges.

“[The Peer Support Centre] is a space where students can come to talk or to sort through resources. Our tagline is ‘confidential, non-judgemental, and empathetic’”

The PSC has a team of volunteer and work-study students who have previous work or volunteer experience dealing with mental health, or have lived through mental health battles of their own.

The PSC’s volunteers had to apply by mid-August with their resume, references, and in-depth answers about how they would provide emotional support to other students.

Applicants accepted to the position are required to attend weekly meetings and commit to a full academic year (September to April), with a minimum of four volunteer hours per week.

News about the UVSS’s PSC comes in the wake of a spike in student suicides at universities across the country including the University of Waterloo and the University of Guelph.

Such recent events prompted the University of Guelph to launch a door-to-door initiative that saw faculty members, staff, and Residence Life members knocking on students’ doors to ask about their mental health and to hand out pamphlets with various support options available on campus.

“Any time there’s a tragic event, you sit back and you figure out how to provide more support and resources,” said Patrick Kelly, an associate director of Residence Life at Guelph, to the National Post.

News about the UVSS’s Peer Support Centre comes in the wake of a spike in student suicides at universities across the country.

Guelph students appeared to be fully behind the new support system, and were particularly encouraged when faculty deans, the university’s president, and the university provost participated in the door-to-door program.

“I think it was important for us to say to students we may seem far away, but we deeply care,” said Charlotte Yates, Guelph university provost.

After unveiling the yellow ‘Friendship Bench’ at UVic last winter, the PSC is the second initiative within the past calendar year that the UVSS has undertaken in an effort to help combat mental health issues and stigma on campus.

Students don’t need to book an appointment to use the PSC, and can simply walk into the centre — located in room B035 of the Student Union Building — for a session. The unveiling of the centre also coincides with the start of the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health’s national Mental Illness Awareness Week, which runs from Oct. 1 to Oct. 7.

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