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Students supporting students

The launch of a new and improved Peer Support program at Western will assist more students facing mental health and wellness challenges

April 7, 2015

Students supporting students
The USC aims to offer a larger, more structured campus-wide Peer Support Network that will improve access to services, increase health literacy among the Western community and build competency, self-management and coping skills in the student population.

Overall good health and well-being are important factors in student success. Yet the reality is that an increasing number of students at postsecondary institutions across Canada report feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed.

Health and wellness experts believe that young adults tend to relate best to their peers. Therefore, initiatives that are ’by students, for students’ can be effective ways to engage and empower the student body.

To assist students facing mental health and wellness challenges, Western’s University Student Council (USC) runs a Peer Support Centre that provides access to various student services in a comfortable, confidential environment.

While the Centre has supported a small number of students on a drop-in basis for the past five years, USC Vice-President, Internal, Emily Addison, knows there is a need to grow.

“The goal of Peer Support on campus is to act as a first point of contact for students who are looking for help in virtually any aspect of their time at university. Whether they are looking to be connected to a campus resource or just need a peer to vent to after a long day or a disappointing grade, the Peer Support Centre’s goal is to support more students on campus before they become too overwhelmed,” Emily says. “Similar programs are widely successful at other universities and our students are asking for increased access to this service.”

By teaming up with Western’s Student Success Centre, the USC can offer a larger, more structured campus-wide Peer Support Network that will improve access to services, increase health literacy among the Western community and build competency, self-management and coping skills in the student population.

Mrs. Leslie Johnson, BScN’78, and Mr. Peter Johnson, HBA’74, MBA’75, LLB’78, along with their family, have made a gift of $50,000 to support the expansion of this exciting and much-needed initiative. Mrs. Johnson has seen her six children through postsecondary education and knows that there are a number of reasons students can get “off track” in their university careers, particularly after first year.

“This is a time when many students move out of residence and may not be equipped to handle the stressors of living on their own and of increasing expectations of university life,” says Mrs. Johnson. “I believe a well-established Peer Support program at Western has enormous potential to equip students with the support and tools they need to take problems they’re encountering into their own hands; prevent more serious problems from occurring and allow students to get the most out of their university experience.”

The Johnson family gift will allow for the hiring of a health care professional to create a comprehensive training program for student volunteers, and to document, evaluate and assess the program’s results. It will also ensure the promotion of services, engagement of community speakers and an enhancement of the Centre’s online presence.

Emily says she is thankful for the generous support that will allow the USC and Western’s Student Success Centre to partner on expanding this initiative.

“On behalf of all of the students that this program will help for years to come, I am so grateful to the Johnson family for their commitment to student wellness through this innovative and student-driven initiative.”

To make a donation to the Peer Support Network, contact Jan New, executive director, Faculties & Divisions Development (519.661.2111, ext. 88458 or jnew@uwo.ca).


This article appeared in the Spring 2015 edition of Impact Western
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