Survey of College Students Shows Great Interest in Peer Mental Health Counseling Services, Especially in Marginalized Groups — Campus Technology


College student survey reveals high interest in peer mental health counseling services, particularly in marginalized groups

ONE youngest opinion poll of more than 2,000 US college students shows widespread interest in peer mental health counseling services, with one in five respondents having used such programs and more than 60% of those who did not say they were interested to use them.

The survey, funded by Born This Way Foundation and the Mary Christie Instituteis the first to focus on student attitudes towards peer psychological counseling, defined as “support for your mental health from a trained peer, not a friend”.

Results showed that use of peer counseling programs is higher among Black, transgender and first-generation college students, and respondents reported greater interest in peer support programs since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other important results of the survey are:

  • Two-thirds of the students surveyed said they had faced a mental health challenge in the past year.
  • Utilization of peer counseling programs is higher among black students (39%), transgender students (39%) and first-generation students (29%), who are particularly likely to say having a peer counselor is “very important”. with similar experiences to find identities.
  • Almost half (45%) of the students who provide peer counseling cite helping others as their main motivation.
  • Those who provide peer counseling are more likely to score higher on a well-being scale than those who do not provide peer counseling.
  • 36% said they would turn to a friend or partner first if they had a serious mental health issue.
  • Interest in peer counseling has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly half (48%) of respondents saying the disruption caused by the pandemic made them more likely to seek peer counseling, including 20%, who say it “got them a lot more likely.”
  • The most commonly cited reasons for seeking peer counseling were stress, anxiety, depression, problems in social life and loneliness.

Respondents who reported having used peer counseling reported high levels of satisfaction, with nearly 80% describing it as ‘readily available’, ‘confidential’ and ‘free’ and 82% of respondents saying it was ‘able to serve students of diverse backgrounds and identities.”

But while the results show promising opportunities for peer counseling programs, they also identified potential gaps in peer counselor training practices, the survey report said. Peer guidance training is common for such programs but not universal, and survey results showed that 16% of peer guidance practitioners “have no emergency knowledge when they are concerned about a student’s safety”.

The survey was conducted in partnership between the Born This Way Foundation, founded by Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta to “support youth mental health and work with young people to build a kinder and braver world,” and the Mary Christie Institute, a research and educational organization dedicated to the mental well-being of teenagers and young adults.

“We know this generation of students prioritizes their mental health and wants to help find solutions for themselves and their peers,” said Maya Smith, executive director of the Born This Way Foundation. “It is imperative — as nonprofits, academic institutions, and juvenile advocates — that we provide actionable resources to continue to support students and their mental well-being.”

“Counseling center leaders have long recognized the importance of peer-to-peer support and that peer counseling, if safely provided, could be part of our treatment options,” said Dr. Zoe Ragouzeos, Executive Director of Counseling and Wellness Services New York University and the President of the Mary Christie Institute. “These results show us that students are involved and interested in these programs, which encourages us to work together to create and support this work.”

For more information and full survey results, visit Born This Way Foundation website.

About the author

Kristal Kuykendall is the Editor of the 1105 Media Education Group. She can be reached at [email protected].

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