USA Starts Peer Student Support Network
Posted on June 23, 2020
The University of South Alabama has launched a new peer-to-peer initiative that will help students better manage stress and cope effectively with personal or academic issues.
The new Jag Student Support Network is composed of eight volunteer students who have been trained through the University’s Counseling and Testing Center to serve as peer mentors. The training, which included basic counseling and mentoring techniques, provided the volunteers with skills to help their fellow students manage stressors that might interfere with their ability to complete their coursework and stay in college.
“We want students to be trained to listen to other students who are struggling with challenging situations,” said Dr. John Friend, director of the Counseling and Testing Center. “Creating this peer mentoring team is one of many ways we’re providing support to our students.”
Friend, with the help of April Berry, a graduate student intern, conducted a survey that spurred the creation of the new program.
“The survey helped us better serve our students with the volunteer peer mentoring initiative,” Friend noted. “With a second survey, we found out that some students struggled while being away from campus because they didn’t have the privacy to call us as often as they needed to have a counseling session.”
The Jag Student Support Network members work to build supportive relationships with peers in an authentic and unscripted way, Friend said, and noted that he and his staff will step in and provide professional services for the students when needed.
Preston White, a senior nursing major from Decatur, Ala., is a member of the first cohort of volunteers. He said he has always been passionate about supporting and helping others.
“I am invested in the mental health of students here at South Alabama,” White said. “During the training, we learned how to have sympathy and empathy for students and to be good listeners.”
The student volunteers also share experiences that show their fellow students they are not alone in facing academic and personal issues.
“Part of our job is to share our challenges and success with students,” White said. “We want them to see that we struggle as well. But we can share coping techniques that will help them manage their lives better, and provide them with resources and referrals. We want to break barriers around mental health.”
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