Peer Support 101: Empowering college students to support each other with free mental health training
Posted on 15 August 2022
by Obi Felten, Founder & CEO (originally on the Flourish Labs blog)
We are now offering ‘Peer Support 101’ training for college students, a 20-hour virtual course to learn valuable mental health peer support skills which can lead to a part-time job as a Certified Peer Supporter. Our first course is starting August 29th, and we are offering 150 scholarships, so sign up today!
Why we’re launching our peer support training and network
At Flourish Labs, we’re on a mission to bring accessible, affordable mental health support to everyone who needs it by empowering people to support each other. We’re in the midst of a student mental health crisis. Over 40% of college students have mental health challenges, according to the Healthy Minds Study. College counseling centers are struggling to keep up with demand.
We believe that peer support is an effective, yet under-utilized solution to this crisis. Peer supporters use their own lived experience of mental health challenges to help others. Studies have shown that peer support not only benefits the student being supported, but also helps the supporter maintain good mental health. In other words, it’s mutual. A recent survey found that 20% of students already have experienced peer support, and another 50% want to try it. On many campuses, students are self-organizing to provide informal peer support to each other, with little or no training.
Unfortunately, as with other mental health professions, there aren’t enough trained and qualified peer supporters to meet the need. Mental Health America estimates that only about 24,000 people work as Certified Peer Support Specialists in the US today.
Our ambition is to grow this workforce by training students in peer support skills, such as active listening, building rapport, strengths, self-care, coping strategies and safety. We’ll then offer students a part-time job as Certified Peer Supporters in our peer support network launching later this fall. Students who want support will be able to find Certified Peer Supporters who match their needs, and book support sessions via our digital platform.
We’re not alone
This effort will take a village, not just a technology startup such as Flourish Labs, so we’re partnering with nonprofits and colleges to bring the peer supporter training and job opportunity to students. We’re working closely with two leading nonprofits in the youth peer space. Youth Era, a peer-led organization based in Oregon who have deep experience in training youth peer supporters, is our training partner. We’ve been designing our program with Active Minds, the largest nationwide network of student mental health volunteers with chapters on over 600 college campuses.
We’re also working with student groups, career centers, psychology departments and innovation groups at Northeastern University, University of St Thomas Houston, Western Governors University, Arizona State University and University of Oregon to bring this opportunity to their community. (Read this blogpost on why WGU chose to partner with us.) We’re always looking for more college partners, especially community colleges and others with diverse student populations. So if you are interested in offering peer supporter training, paid work experience and meaningful part-time jobs to your students, please get in touch.
Sign up for ‘Peer Support 101’ training, starting August 29th
Our ‘Peer Support 101’ training is a 20-hour live, virtual course designed and delivered in partnership with Youth Era. It is based on Youth Era’s proven Uplift program, and adapted for college students.
Register by August 22nd to join the training starting August 29th, or get priority access for future courses if you can’t make this one.
We are offering 150 scholarships so students can participate in the training free of charge (worth $475 each). If you complete the course and pass the assessment at the end, you will receive a digital certificate that you can display on your LinkedIn or Handshake profile – and a $75 gift voucher!
As with all our projects, we’re designing our training with students, for students. This first cohort will be a beta test and we’ll evolve it over time.
We hope to see you at our first training!
Image: Nathan Blanken and fellow University of Maryland students at Active Minds event in October 2021. Photo by Kevin Carney