This archived article was written by: C. Josie Luke
A peer support group for students dealing with issues involving with the college experience, mental illnesses and life in general, will begin meeting March 3 at 7 pm, in CBB room 247. The group will be entirely confidential and anyone interested in being involved is encouraged to attend.
Gender, socio-economic status and ethnic background should not be an issue in a person’s decision to attend. Because of the confidentiality aspect, no one should fear in any way joining in this process. All of those involved will be treated with respect and great care will be shown so that no one will be offended.
Generally, support groups are led by a professional or by a member of the group. This being a peer support group, the leader of the group will be a peer who is actually experiencing these stresses and problems along with the group. This can provide a more comfortable setting for members of the group as well as a feeling of mutual support.
According to the National Association of Mental Health, “Mental illness can profoundly disrupt students’ thinking, feelings, moods, ability to relate to others, and overall capacity for coping with the demands of college life. These brain disorders are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character, or poor upbringing. Rather, mental illnesses are biologically based brain disorders, and they cannot be overcome through ‘will power’ and are not related to a person’s ‘character’ or intelligence.
“College students are particularly susceptible to mental illness, since depression and other major illnesses first become apparent during a person’s college years. Students must contend with new surroundings, people, classes, and other various stresses. The pressures of college life combined with biological factors have made mental illness on college campuses an increasingly common concern. An estimated 27 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental illness. Consequently, every year thousands of college students struggle alone with mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders and bipolar disorder.”
According to information on the peer support group at Oxford University, “The Peer Support Programme provides the University [or community college] with a support network for any students who wish to talk about their problems but are not yet ready for, or do not feel they need, professional help.”
This group will not be a substitute for professional mental health care, but a support to anyone who feels that they could benefit from the experience. It will be a relaxed format and will encourage those who attend to participate only to the degree that they feel comfortable participating.
In research studies looking at groups such as this, as listed in an article on Psych Central compiled by Elaina M. Kyrouz, Ph.D. and Keith Humphries, Ph.D., persons participating were less likely to be hospitalized since joining, had shorter hospital stays and a higher percentage of members could function with no contact with the mental health system.
In one study, conducted in 1990 by M. Kennedy, “Members also increased their sense of security and self-esteem, decreased their existential anxiety, broadened their sense of spirituality, and increased their ability to accept problems without blaming self and others for them.”
One student involved said, “People tend to be very wary of attending such a group because of the stereotypes that exist about things like this, but I would encourage them to just come once. Organizers are hoping that people will come and see what it is like and that people will not judge it before they do . I think they might be surprised at how much it can help them. I think it could be a huge help for people who are struggling with many different problems, from a serious mental illness or stress from personal problems to everyday feelings of loneliness and discouragement. Everyone should be excited to come to help themselves and to be able to help other people who might be having the same problems.”
If you are interested at all or have any questions, please send emails to [email protected]. Any questions or concerns will be answered promptly and confidentially.