Exploring the Benefits of Peer to Peer Helping Relationships
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To develop a Peer Support Programme delivered by students to students To ascertain the academic and personal impact on Peer supporters of participation in the programme In 2010/11 the PU Student Counselling Service offered services to 2.49% of PU students (Counselling Service Annual Report). There is little ‘recent high quality research into the prevalence of mental disorder’ amongst students (The Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2011), but it is likely that large numbers of Plymouth University students experiencing distress did not access counselling.
There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that students find it hard to seek help due to perceived stigma associated with counselling (Quinn et al, 2009) and an NUS Scotland report (2009) found that only 17.3% of students surveyed felt able to approach support services for help with mental health problems.
The Peer Support Programme project piloted a student-delivered intervention, as research indicated that students seek support from peers rather than specialist services (Grant, 2002) seeing peers as ‘more credible’ than traditional adult providers and as providing ‘more acceptable’ interventions (Pinkney, 2012).
Recognising that student mental health is a complex and serious issue of concern, the Plymouth Peer Support project aimed to offer a systemic, student-delivered intervention to support students in distress and facilitate their transition to wider university and community services if appropriate. Ethical approval was granted from the Faculty of Science and Environment.
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