Connection is key

Peer support pilot program supports students at Pictou Campus

Connection is key

Shaylyn Palmer, second year Social Services student at Pictou Campus.

“Through this project, we have established three peer mentors and an office where students can drop in without an appointment and chat about whatever is on their mind or be connected with the support they need. That takes away some of the barriers to getting help.” ~ Shaylyn Palmer

Fast Fact

Last year, NSCC students across six campuses shared their thoughts about mental health in post-secondary - contributing to the creation of National Standards through the Mental Health Commission of Canada. In these conversations, students identified the value of being able to talk about their challenges with fellow students.

Shaylyn Palmer says being able to talk about mental wellness with your peers is helpful in managing the challenges of earning a post-secondary credential.

“I know that, when I am stressed, other students are going to be able to understand what I am going through because we’re all in the same boat,” says the second-year Social Services student at the Pictou Campus. “Sometimes, that is much easier than talking about these issues with faculty.” 

Palmer has been doing her part to be there for campus students as a Peer Mentor with the Pictou Peer Support Pilot Program. Launched in fall 2019, the project was conceived by then-Social Services student Emily MacNeil and draws on the Stay Connected peer support model. The goal, Palmer says, is to enhance a campus-wide culture where everyone can be honest about not being okay, and ensure help is accessible from a variety of sources, from campus counsellors to trained peers. “The campus community is amazing because there are great supports in place, but I know from my own experience with an anxiety disorder that it can be intimidating for students to make an appointment or start the conversation with someone who is not your peer,” Palmer says.

“Through this project, we have established three peer mentors and an office where students can drop in without an appointment and chat about whatever is on their mind or be connected with the support they need. That takes away some of the barriers to getting help.”

Finding creative ways to break the ice

Palmer and her fellow mentors are also removing barriers by taking the pilot project out of the office through a series of engaging initiatives and activities. Last fall, the peer mentors went “reverse trick-or-treating,” handing out candy and promoting the project. They have also organized a bubble wrap-popping event and rock painting in the campus cafeteria so students can de-stress. In this way, Palmer and her fellow mentors have embraced the NSCC Mental Wellness Strategy, which prioritizes building connections and a sense of inclusion among students.

“We were not getting the number of walk-ins we hoped for, so we decided to reach out and engage students,” Palmer says. “That way, they know who we are and they might feel more comfortable stopping us in the hallway to chat. The reaction has been very positive, and I think it makes it easier for students to talk about what they are going through.”

Enriching experience

Palmer says Pictou Campus employees have been supportive of both the pilot and the mentors, all of whom are Social Services students. “We have been treated like equals from the start, so we have been able to contribute ideas and shape the pilot based on our experiences and feedback. That approach, combined with the funding they provide, demonstrates how much NSCC cares about the well-being of its students.”

The experience has been an enriching one for Palmer, helping her build confidence and gain insight on possible career paths when she earns her diploma. She hopes next year’s peer mentors find their own ways to expand and enhance the project for the benefit of students.

“I’d like to see it diversify further, with more students from different backgrounds, so it continues to help those in need,” Palmer says.

24/01/20

“Through this project, we have established three peer mentors and an office where students can drop in without an appointment and chat about whatever is on their mind or be connected with the support they need. That takes away some of the barriers to getting help.” ~ Shaylyn Palmer

Fast Fact

Last year, NSCC students across six campuses shared their thoughts about mental health in post-secondary - contributing to the creation of National Standards through the Mental Health Commission of Canada. In these conversations, students identified the value of being able to talk about their challenges with fellow students.

Comments

Submitted comments are approved by the moderators of NSCCNow.