By: Eli O’Donnell

The Peer Support Center is now open here at NAIT. After nearly two years of planning and training, the peers at the centre are ready to help and listen as of January 30.

The service hub manager at NAITSA, Megan Brodeur, explains that the major draw of peer support programs is the fact that you will be speaking to another student – one who has been trained to help those in need.

“Peer support is student to student supportive listening,”said Brodeur.

The service is anonymous, which means no names, no IDs and no student numbers.

Not only is it anonymous, but it is for everybody. The peer supporters are there to listen, whether a student is nervous about a test or if they are experiencing more severe concerns.

“We do not give any advice,” says Brodeur, after being asked about the difference between a peer supporter and a counsellor. “You bring in your problem, spread it out on the table, talk about your feelings, and then the peer supporter will help you… package it back up.”

They also give resources and referrals if someone needs or asks to take their healing to the next level. Supporters are not licenced and will not give advice.

“We are not going to come in and say ‘Oh, break up with your boyfriend, he sounds like a jerk.’ It is very impartial and unbiased with no judgement,” said Brodeur.

NAITSA currently employs ten students, but Brodeur hopes to expand the Peer Support Centre in the future.

The program is currently open on a walk-in basis three hours a day on Monday to Friday. One hour in the mornings, one at lunch and one before evening classes.

“We’d love to see the hours be the same as our office hours, we’d love to see this expand to the satellite campuses as well,” said Brodeur.

Other institutions, such as Grant MacEwan and the University of Alberta, already have and have had some form of peer support since the ‘60s. They have almost 40 students employed as supporters and they see between 60 and 70 applications every year.

Brodeur hopes to receive applications for more peer counsellors. Postings for positions are usually posted on the NAITSA website in March and April. To become a peer supporter, one must first be enrolled at NAIT. They also screen for empathy and unbiasedness.

“The interviews are really tough, and they can get really emotional. But we want to make sure that whatever issues [the interviewee has] worked through, [they] are going to be ok and not be triggered by somebody else’s problems,” said Brodeur.

Students are encouraged to seek help if they need it and the Peer Support Centre is now open to serve students.

Photo Source: NAITSA