Centre seeks help for students in crisis

Peer Support Centre partners with mobile response team from a community organization

The Peer Support Centre, located in the JDUC has recently seen a large increase in visits.
The Peer Support Centre, located in the JDUC has recently seen a large increase in visits.

The Peer Support Centre is turning to an outside organization to manage crisis situations.

The Centre has formed a new partnership with Frontenac Community Mental Health and Addiction Services (FCMHS) for students seeking counselling who are at risk of harming themselves.

The PSC is an on-campus support centre run through the AMS. Its office in room 34 of the JDUC is staffed with trained volunteers who offer support for students dealing with mental health issues.

According to PSC Director Lindsay Reynolds, student volunteers aren’t equipped to deal with serious crisis situations, which led to an agreement with FCMHS.

As of September 2012, if a volunteer on duty believes a visitor to be at risk, they will call FCMHS’s mobile response team who will send two workers to the PSC, Reynolds, ArtSci ’12, said.

Although the Centre’s 50 volunteers are trained for suicide awareness, the main focus of the Centre is on social support. It can’t provide diagnosis, treatment or long-term support for any mental illness, and isn’t a replacement for professional counselling services, Reynolds said.

The Centre has seen a drastic increase in visits since its inception in 2007. That year, only a handful of students visited. The 2011-12 school year saw over 300 visits.

“In a broad sense, I would say there has been a recent awareness for mental health issues [on campus],” Reynolds said.

Since the 2010-11 school year when Queen’s was shaken by an unprecedented number of deaths, several mental health initiatives have appeared on campus, including last year’s Queen’s Wears Green initiative and Project Chickpea, a group that raised funds for the PSC.

Expenses at the Centre have also soared. Much of this can be attributed to the director’s role, which changed this year from a volunteer role to a salaried 20 hour per week position.

Between the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years, money spent by the PSC grew by over $8,000. Exact figures are not available for 2011-12, but the Centre had a budget over $16,000 for the year, almost twice as much as the year before.

The Centre, run through the AMS’s Social Issues Commission, is funded primarily from AMS student fees.

—With files from Terence Wong

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