Alison Flett, a third-year psychology student, writes about how her Peer Helper experience at Health and Counseling Services has led to her involvement in the Student Alliance for Mental Health.

My name is Alison Flett and I’m a third-year psychology honours student here at Carleton University. I’ve been given the opportunity to work as a Peer Helper for Health and Counseling Services this year. Considering that my ultimate goal is to apply for counseling or clinical graduate programs, this position particularly appealed to me because I would get to work in a clinic environment in which I could interact with various health professionals and other students interested in the field.

At Health and Counseling Services, I help prepare for presentations that will be given to first year seminar classes and the Student Experience Office. I also check to ensure that there are enough brochures in residence as well as the clinic so that students can get information about a wide variety of health topics and issues. I feel that as part of the job, it feels good knowing that students always have easy access to information or supports they may need. I have also helped organize and run several flu clinics over the last few weeks.

As part of my role as Peer Helper, I’m also an executive for the Student Alliance For Mental Health (SAMH) on campus. For those who don’t know, SAMH is a student-led group that actively promotes and encourages discussion on mental health and fights to end any stigma that may be associated with it. I’m really passionate about this group and the function it serves. Growing up, I was naturally exposed to issues surrounding mental health in schools because my Dad is a psychologist. As well, my education at university has shed light on the fact that student mental health is becoming an increasingly relevant and important issue that needs to be addressed.

My role as an executive for SAMH is Communications Coordinator. In this role, I respond to student inquiries at events or via email about the group itself or how to get involved. A primary role of mine is also to contact speakers in the community and help to organize events. Since this is my first year being involved in this group, I’ve had to learn from other executives as to what past events have been a success and have engaged students on campus. So far, this year we’ve tabled at the Expo as well as during the Anti-Cyber Bullying week. This semester it has been challenging for our group because some of the roles in our executive team were restructured. However, our group is moving forward and looking forward to what lies ahead next semester. We hope to hold workshops for those living in residence, host a movie night, as well as hold a bake sale at the Do It For Daron men and women’s hockey game.

Also, our group plans to hold a mental health panel event. At this event, organizations from the Ottawa community speak to students about how to get involved with volunteering, as well as hear from individuals who are dealing or who have dealt with mental health issues themselves. I attended the panel event held last year and it was a great opportunity to get to hear from such speakers. In particular, I remember hearing from a representative from CHEO, which sparked my interest in applying to volunteer there. Currently, I volunteer in a research lab at the CHEO research institute.

I would say that a major challenge in taking on this role is time management. This semester I took on this position as well a full course load, new part-time job, and practicum placement. Since there is a requirement of five hours per week, I found that it was essential to plan my schedule accordingly and make sure I fit hours in around due dates as well as class or work schedules.

However, I would most certainly recommend that anyone get involved in this program, as it is a great way to develop your leadership skills. Involvement in the program can really open doors for you and introduce you to other opportunities available on campus. Not only is the Peer Helping program great experience, it is fulfilling knowing that you are helping fellow students on campus as well as meeting new people and getting more involved in student life.

Submitted by Alison Flett, a third-year psychology student.

To learn more about the Peer Helper Program, please visit carleton.ca/seo/peer-helper-program


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