Peers lend their ears in new Peer Mental Health Program 

Peers lend their ears in new Peer Mental Health Program 

Graphic by Elise Bechtel

By Jereme Lua

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) has partnered with CI psychology majors to create a new student-run program dedicated to helping students with their day-to-day life in college which started in spring 2023. The CAPS Mental Health Peer Program (MHPP) is a free and easy way to talk about mental health with a fellow student. Peers are trained, psychology upperclassmen with their own office to offer private counseling or a space to relax during students’ busy schedules. The CI View reached out to a couple CAPS Mental Health Peers, senior psychology majors Rachel Manfreda and Karly Eaton, to talk about their experiences with the program so far.

MHPP realizes that handling mental health issues is often stressful and asking for help can sometimes feel shameful. The Mental Health Peers aim to bridge the gap between CAPS’s professional services and student relatability. Manfreda said, “Sometimes we know that students feel a little uncomfortable talking to a clinician and may feel more comfortable talking to someone who may relate more to them or understand what they’re going through a little better.” MHPP also offers routes into CAPS services and can refer students to them if requested.

Most who come in to talk to the Mental Health Peers do so regarding common issues that college students come across, including test anxiety, presentation anxiety and roommate issues. However, Eaton brought up an important issue that is specific to CI: campus belonging. She stated, “I think a lot of people at CI have a hard time adjusting, most people say we have a quiet campus. So, we do a lot of work with, like, connecting people to the resources the campus has, like clubs, because I think a lot of people are just not aware of everything CI has.”

For many students, living in the on-campus dormitories is their first time living on their own. The experience is made even more abrupt by how isolated we are from metropolitan areas. Setting up an appointment with the Mental Health Peers would allow students to talk about the difficulties of being so far away from home with someone who may have gone through the same circumstances recently.

The program office operates similarly to the Inclusive Student Services or the study spaces within the John Spoor Broome Library, where students can come in at any time to relax, study, fill out coloring pages or eat a snack. There is no appointment needed to use the space: it is there for students to take advantage of without interfacing with MHPP services. For holding appointments, the office has a therapy couch or students can take advantage of our campus by holding appointments in the outdoor campus quads.

The Mental Health Peers emphasize teaching self-care techniques that allow students to handle problems on their own. Eaton stated, “The big idea is we give students the tools to be successful in college with their mental health. We want to give the students the tools, so that once they leave the appointment, they can do all this themselves.”

To access MHPP services and make an appointment, a form can be found under the “Services” tab on the CI CAPS page. The program office is located in Bell Tower East room 1808 open 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Announcements regarding the program can also be found on the CAPS Instagram page.