Peer support occurs when people provide knowledge, experience, emotional, social or practical help to each other. It often consists of using own experiential knowledge, for instance stressors experienced as a young person, as a student at the university to facilitate, guide, mentor another. It is about instilling hope, role modelling, supporting to reclaim meaningful, self-determined life. In addition to using one’s experiential knowledge, peer support can involve training in values, knowledge and skills to provide support. It may involve timely support and also referral to the counselling center.
Peer support is also used to refer to initiatives where students in person or online, as equals give each other connection and support on a reciprocal basis.
Why is peer support helpful?
Research suggests that peer support is a critical and effective strategy to enhance mental health awareness, reduce campus-wide mental health stigma and help people receive necessary support and services.
The TISS peer support training programme actively works to educate students about self- awareness and are designed to develop skills in peers to reduce the stigma often associated with seeking help for emotional or psychological problems. This is important as students are more likely to receive needed services if they feel the climate on their college campus is more positive with respect to mental health.
Objectives of the TISS peer support programme
The programme aims to create sensitivity amongst students regarding the entire student community and their concerns.
It aims to enhance self-awareness among students who enrol in the programme as peer supporters
It would train students in basic values, knowledge and skills necessary for support work.
It would train students in making appropriate referrals and providing information about resources that exist on campus for student support
The programme hopes to create stronger and more dependable peer support network.
The students who enrol for this programme could help the Counselling Centre in other preventive work of the center.
What are the component of peer support programme?
Trainings for the peer supporters
Trainings for peer supporters would focus on,
Self-awareness, understanding and reflexivity of one’s social location, understanding prejudice
Values such as non-judgemental ways of being, unconditional positive regard, empathy
Skills of basic counselling such as listening, attending skills; communication and problem solving skills; assertiveness training, referral skills
During training students learn how to:
Make people feel welcome at the beginning of a contact and convey through verbal and non-verbal communication that the peer supporter is ready to listen
Use appropriate listening and questioning skills so that they can ensure that the person who approaches them has an opportunity to explore their concern
Understand the range of non-verbal communications that can help or hinder the development of a successful peer support contact and be able to monitor and change their own behaviour where necessary
Monitor their own decision-making styles and the values they hold so as to ensure that these do not impinge unnecessarily on their ability to listen and respond to another's concerns
Communicate assertively so that they can set limits, convey information with clarity, both in their personal life and while supporting their peers, and approach people with an open and positive attitude
Identify when it is not appropriate to give advice
Be alert to how a person's history, identity, age and cultural background will bring a particular perspective to any encounter
Understand that, even when people have similar experiences the meaning attached to experiences can be different for each person and that this understanding is a key component in developing the skills of effective listening
Recognise when someone is in crisis, particularly when there are no dramatic events that make clear that a crisis could be imminent and understand how to manage themselves and the situation when dealing with someone in crisis
Be clear about the limits of their own expertise and resources
Develop a resource list of information on support, counselling and medical services so that these are readily available to students who consult them and understand the necessity of having an up-to-date list that can be used particularly at times of crisis
Know when and how to make a referral to another service and be clear about what can help or hinder the effectiveness of this process
Structure and Duration
The structure of the training programme is conceptualised initially as six sessions of two hours duration once a week spread over a period of six weeks. Those enrolling for the peer support training programme must make a commitment to attend every training session.
They may be excused for a maximum of one session in an emergency, arising out of health or other reasons of a serious nature.
Who can become a peer supporter?
Any student of TISS willing to invest their time in the trainings and activities organised by the Peer Support program can become a Peer supporter.
Peer support programme aims to support students in their academic and social adjustment
to college life. For student volunteers, peer support contributes to their social, emotional and cognitive development as they have an opportunity to develop skills, adopt responsibility, meet new people and contribute to the welfare of a community. Students experiencing difficulties often reap numerous benefits, including talking with a fellow student in a casual setting, seeking support for transitional difficulties, and receiving referrals to professional services if necessary. Through the training, it is hoped that participants will learn and practice skills that will benefit them throughout their life.
Thus, to reiterate once again, anyone who is committed to the above stated objectives of the programme could become a peer supporter.