Visits increase this year

Peer Support Centre has had 150 visits this semester

Visits to the Queen’s Peer Support Centre have drastically increased this year.

This semester the Peer Support Centre has seen 150 visits so far, compared to 100 visits over the entire 2010-11 academic year.

Evette Yassa, a marketing and outreach co-ordinator for the centre, said in 2009-10 there were only seven visits during the entire year. The centre was created in 2007.

“A major factor has been the increase in outreach this year. We distribute a lot of promotional materials,” Yassa, ArtSci ’11, said. “To add to our outreach, we’re using social media.”

The number of student volunteers has also increased from about 30 to 50 this year, she said.

Yassa said the awareness surrounding mental health issues at Queen’s has been a positive step forward for the university.

“All of the awareness about mental health issues on campus can only foster an environment where people can ask for help if they need it.”

The centre is funded from the budget alloted by AMS Assembly to the Social Issues Commission.

Yassa said the Peer Support Centre is a supplementary to professional care like Health, Counselling and Disability Services (HCDS).

“We are not trying nor could we replace professional care.”

The Peer Support Centre made management changes this year.

“Part of what we did was to create a permanent infrastructure, including the creation of management positions,” she said.

Yassa said everyone who works at the centre must undergo a minimum of 27 hours of training.

“There’s been a huge difference in the amount of training in terms of hours and the kind of things we’re trained in,” she said.

Volunteers must go through positive space training, equity and anti-oppression training from the Social Issues Commission, training from disability services and training from the Four Directions Aboriginal Centre.

“We have also received training from [Kingston General Hospital], specifically the sexual assault and domestic violence unit,” she said.

Yassa said as the centre has expanded, there has been more opportunity for different kinds of training.

“This is the first year we’ve been able to have training from Four Directions and Learning Strategies. Last year was the first year that it was even remotely fully functional,” she said.

Yassa said she sees a wide variety of people come in to use the centre.

“Sometimes we don’t necessarily need the information of what year they’re in. From what I’ve seen, I’ve had a various range of different people come in,” she said.

Though the peer support centre is an AMS service, Yassa said there are still programs specifically tailored to helping graduate and professional students even though they don’t contribute fiscally to the centre.

“We’ve also had training from Society of Graduate and Professional Studies representatives to train us about issues that are specific to those students,” Yassa said.

The SGPS doesn’t financially contribute to the Peer Support Centre.

Mike Condra, director of HCDS, has also led mental health awareness and response training for the volunteers.

“He does delve into specific issues that are prevalent in the Queen’s community,” Yassa said. “He’s discussed anxiety, depression and eating disorders.”

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