Program evaluation of a student-led peer support service at a Canadian university
Suresh, R., Karkossa, Z., Richard, J., & Karia, M.
University students often experience numerous financial, social and emotional stressors that can affect their mental health. The Peer Support Centre (PSC) is a pilot project that was established to provide peer support to students in these stressful conditions. We wanted to investigate whether peer support is a viable form of support that would benefit university students. The objective of this study is to determine whether the organization was indeed providing a beneficial service to students and if it was fulfilling the needs of the students that visited the service.
After a support session, students and peer support providers completed an anonymous questionnaire regarding their self-reported mental wellbeing using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) metrics, and Outcome Rating Scale (ORS). They were also asked about their experience with previous professional mental health services as well as their experience at the PSC. With the data collected from 1043 students and 797 volunteers from September 2016–March 2020, a program evaluation was conducted for quality improvement purposes.
The PSC is used by students of different sexes, genders, and ethnicities. Students reported having a low ORS score, moderate anxiety as per the GAD-7 and moderate depression according to the PHQ-9. They find it easy to use and rely on it as an alternative form of support when they approach barriers that prevent them from accessing professional services. Lastly, the peer support providers feel very validated in their role and overall quite prepared and helpful when helping their fellow peers.
The establishment of a student service that provides peer support would be beneficial to the members of a university/college campus.