Graduate peer support centre to open this month

SGPS has worked on project for more than a year, vice-president says 

The SGPS Peer Support Centre will open this September.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

The SGPS will open a new peer support centre for graduate students, according to the Society’s vice-president (Graduate), Leo Erlikhman.

The new service will be up and running within the month of September, pending the finalization of a formal agreement with the University.

In an interview with The Journal, Erlikhman said the SGPS has been compiling data and working with a team of educational psychologists to examine the mental health of graduate students at Queen’s. This study found graduate students have unique mental health issues that are not being addressed at a peer-to-peer level, Erlikhman says.

“Graduate and professional life is very different from the undergraduate environment,” he said. “Seeing that the peer support centre is an excellent service, we decided to emulate that service and create a graduate-focused peer support centre.”

The SGPS has been working on the initiative for more than a year. “It takes quite a lot to launch a service like this,” Erlikhman said.

According to him, the only remaining hurdle is to negotiate and sign a memorandum of understanding with the University, which the SGPS is in the process of doing.

The creation of the graduate peer support centre is in part a response to the results of an SGPS survey conducted in the fall of 2017, which found that around three out of 10 graduate students feel they aren’t thriving, want better skills for managing stress and anxiety, and feel isolated in the lack of designated campus space. 

“If you’re feeling stressed, if you’re having anxiety issues, and if you just want to talk to somebody, right now as a graduate student, there is no forum where you have an individual that’s trained to help you,” Erlikhman said. “By offering this service, you can now go somewhere.”

According to the SGPS website, the peer support centre will function as a drop-in service to provide short-term support for individuals and will not diagnose or treat mental illness. However, its volunteers will be trained in active listening and suicide intervention and well-versed in resource referral to suit diverse needs.

Erlikhman said that the main goal is to provide a space for graduate students to mitigate feelings of isolation and loneliness. “This service makes sure that every student knows that there’s a place for them on campus,” he said.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.