Peer helpers roll out more mental health outreach programme

13 Jan 2019

By Jeanne Mah

A group of student volunteers in NTU are ramping up their efforts to raise awareness about mental health, through a series of talks and events to be held on campus this semester.

These volunteers — also called peer helpers — are part of NTU’s Peer Helping Programme (PHP), which was launched in 2009 by the University Wellbeing Centre (UWC), then called the Student Counselling Centre.

Their role is to keep a lookout for peers they see on campus who seem to be in emotional distress and refer them to the UWC if needed. They also act as confidants, under the supervision of UWC counsellors, and offer a listening ear to students who approach them to talk about the emotional and social challenges in school.

Now, these peer helpers are going a step further to organise and run programmes, which are supported by the UWC, to educate students about mental health, such as how to manage stress during the examination period and where to find information and resources on self-care.

While the UWC has been conducting outreach programmes through the years, student peer helpers will now be more involved in their design and execution. UWC’s senior assistant manager Kelly Cheong believes that having students involved in the outreach process will enhance the effectiveness of the programmes.

Ms Cheong said: “We believe students play a vital role in reaching out to their peers as their involvement will have a synergistic effect to UWC’s overall outreach efforts.”

A new cozy hub

These efforts come after the completion of the PHP Cozy Hub, an area in the Global Lounge at the North Spine which officially opened in October. The hub serves as a location for these outreach events to be held.

The hub has resources like activity cards and board games for students to de-stress. These are prepared by the PHP volunteers in collaboration with community partners such as the Community Health Assessment Team and the Health Promotion Board.

There will also be activities held at the hub, which will be announced and publicised at a later date, said the UWC.

Ngoi Lusin, a second-year Nanyang Business School student, said the hub serves as an accessible and convenient place to find out more information about mental health.

“I’ve always wanted to learn more about mental wellness and self-care but never knew where the peer helpers or the events were located,” said the 20-year-old.

Former peer helper Mr Ang Chin Heng, an NTU sociology graduate, said that his past experience of helping students have included one-on-one conversations with students in need.

“We usually act as listening ears for peers who do not have anyone to turn to. If outreach programmes are conducted at one location like the Cozy Hub, it would allow for more opportunities for peer helpers to conduct events and reach out to students,” said the 26-year-old.

Seek help if needed

While the Cozy Hub was created as part of the peer helpers’ outreach efforts, students should also take the first step to seek help if they are distressed, said Student Affairs Office director Tan Siok San.

“While we strive to continuously improve our educational efforts to create awareness among the student population on the importance of self-care and self-help, we want our students to know it is important to seek help when needed,” said Ms Tan.

“The Cozy Hub is still a work-in-progress and in time to come, we hope it will be a place for students to chill and relax while learning more about mental wellness,” she added.