Important Changes Planned for Peer Counselors


This post was authored by members of The Peer Counselors

The Peer Counselors (PCs) are a fairly young organization, and were started in response to campus-wide concerns surrounding mental health crises and the disconnect between students and the counseling center. After speaking out about the issue at large in a Collegian op-ed, Ocean Jurney ’15, and former director of counseling services, Patrick Gilligan, worked together to create a group able to bridge the gap between the students and the counseling center staff. The Peer Counselors have always been exactly what their name implies: students making themselves available to help other students with any number of concerns or problems.

Although a student-run organization, the PCs have always worked alongside the counseling center- never in an effort to replace proper counseling center attention, but rather to act as a first step on the way to getting help for mental health issues.

However, the past year has seen many administrative changes involving liability and student autonomy, some of which will affect the Peer Counselors. Up until this point in time and extending to the end of this semester, the Peer Counselors will offer and have offered the Kenyon student body the following services:

  • Access to a 24-hour hotline for immediate connection to a PC
  • One-on-one confidential support
  • Small, PC-led discussion groups, covering a range of topics from anxiety to body image
  • Fall and Winter Blues, events to raise spirits and destigmatize reaching out for help concerning mental health struggles

The proposed changes to come in the 2018-2019 school year would remove most of these abilities for The Peer Counselors, removing confidentiality, small group meetings, and the 24-hour hotline. The administrative forces behind the shift in focus have not been entirely forthcoming with their reasons as to why these changes will, supposedly, be beneficial to the student body.

None of these changes are officially in place, and the story still developing.


8 responses

  1. Today, with mental health issues in the forefront, it would be extremely foolish to alter this service provided by students for students. Anyone who has worked with adolescents and young adults knows that the first contact a young person with a problem has is made with a peer. As a registered nurse with 28 years of experience working with older adolescents, I feel that this valuable service needs to be kept as it is.

  2. Kenyon needs the peer counselors, especially considering how woefully unprofressional and overbooked the counselors are. Most students are so mistrustful of the counselors on campus, or unable to even get in touch with one, that the PCs are their main resource for mental support. I shudder to think what will happen to those students if the PCs are destroyed. Now *that* is a legal and publicity nightmare.

    • The counseling center is a mess. I have (what would generally be considered quite serious) mental health concerns and I eventually had to give up on the CC even though I desperately needed their help. Not only were there were very few appointments available but they were, as you said, woefully unprofessional.

      I understand possible concerns around tasking students with their peers’ mental health; however, I don’t think the solution should be to remove PCs’ powers. I also wonder if there are people who are worried that their mental health issues aren’t serious enough to take to the CC; if that’s the case, the PCs should absolutely be available to bridge that gap so students have a contact who can assure them that they’re “allowed” to take their health seriously. Confidentiality is crucial and I’m sure the 24h hotline has been there for so many people who feel isolated in the middle of the night. This seems like a dangerous choice.

  3. What is the real agenda for this change? Legal concerns about risk management and exposure to liability? It is certainly not a decision that is being made in the best interests of the students’ day to day experiences. Feels risk management-y. If this is the reason, HIRE SOME MORE GENUINE, WELL-TRAINED PROFESSIONAL THERAPISTS!

  4. I thought PCs never had legal confidentiality and only “practiced confidentiality”. So would this be an actual change?

    • The PCs practice confidentiality, meaning that they only reveal information about a student to a counselor if that student was at risk of harming themselves or others (ex. extreme cases posing imminent threat). Under this new policy, the PCs would have to log every conversation they have with a student, regardless of its severity, and report it to the counseling center.

  5. I am currently paying a therapist from my hometown that I Skype with once a week because it’s impossible to get into the counseling center to see someone weekly at a regular time, and I don’t have a car to drive myself to see a therapist in Mount Vernon (because Kenyon doesn’t provide transportation to Mount Vernon for health services). The PCs are an essential resource for students, especially at a college that’s currently ill-equipped to handle the mental health needs of its student body.

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