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Health & Wellness launches new peer support service

Posted October 21, 2020

By Samantha Lizardo

cyclists on Saint George Street in the summer

Photo: @UofTStudentLife on Instagram

Health & Wellness peer support is a new drop-in mental health service where you can talk to trained student peers online to find support and get help navigating resources on and off campus.

Peer supporters will be available online for drop-in one-on-one confidential and non-judgemental chats.

Based on regulations and restrictions for practicing health professionals, the service is only open to undergraduate and graduate students at the St. George campus who are in Ontario. You don’t have to be on campus, but you must be in the province to access the service.

All peer supporters are Master of Social Work students at U of T who are trained to provide other students with support and can also relate to the challenges and needs of students.

“We’re students, just like you. Specifically, we’re all Master of Social Work students who’ve had over 60 hours of training to prepare us to do this work and learn about all the different resources on and off campus. There are a lot of different resources out there, and we know it can be hard to understand them all,” shares Tenzin, a current peer supporter.

“Sometimes you may be having a tough time—feeling anxious, stressed about exams, or sad without knowing why. Peer supporters help students by being a source of immediate emotional support, understanding [your] needs, and directing [you] to the appropriate long term supports on and off campus,” explains Lindsy, a fellow peer supporter.

The peer supporters hope to create a sense of connectedness at U of T and encourage students to seek help.

Additionally, Lindsy hopes to help students take a holistic approach to their well-being that considers their unique needs and what feels authentic to them.

Tenzin hopes to help students by challenging traditional perspectives of mental health support.

“As a Tibetan-Canadian student, I struggled with imposter syndrome in many of my classrooms and would have appreciated having access to a service like Health & Wellness peer support where I could easily connect to a relatable peer. So, I feel hopeful that as a peer supporter, I can push the boundaries of traditional mental health support to reach more students who otherwise would have navigated their university careers alone,” shares Tenzin.

Familiar with a range of topics and resources, peer supporters are open to chat with you in whatever state, mood or situation you may be experiencing.

“But you don’t have to be struggling with your mental health to access peer support. If you have questions about being a student, University of Toronto resources, or life in general—we’re happy to listen and help,“ says Tenzin.

Lindsy also adds that the service is ongoing and encourages students to access the support however many times as needed, “One thing I would like students to know is that the program is not a one-off approach. This means that you can access peer support whenever you feel like you need it (within the program hours, of course).”

Peer supporters will be available online on:

  • Wednesdays from 12 – 5 p.m.
  • Thursdays from 12 – 5 p.m.
  • Fridays from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

To chat with a peer supporter and learn more about the service, check out Health & Wellness peer support.

For questions, email peersupport@utoronto.ca.