MU Well-being peers are ‘not counselors, but they do know a lot of the resources that are available on campus, and they can help folks navigate that.’
Danielle Devers works in Student Health & Well-being at the University of Missouri, and one of her roles is to work with the Well-being peers – a diverse team of students that seek to support and educate other MU students on topics like alcohol responsibility, stress and mental health, sexual health, healthy relationships, and more.
Devers spoke about the Well-Being Peers program, how mental health can be interconnected with various aspects of students' lives, and where students can turn for help.
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Danielle Devers: For most students, they're not just dealing with one, you know, one crisis, one health experience to navigate at a time – a lot of those things are overlapping and occur at the same time and feed into each other, like mental health and stress and substance use or alcohol use.
So, it's really important for the students that I work with to know foundational knowledge of all those areas, and I can, you know, help provide them that expertise of the topics, and then they are the experts of the student experience.
So, they're able to merge those two things together to deliver that in formal and informal ways.
Peers have been shown to be very effective in all sorts of ways, you know, even outside the college population. A lot of, you know, health programs have peer educators that kind of help people navigate a lot of different aspects of well-being.
So yeah, the students that volunteer for this program, I mean – it's great to have a representative population, because obviously, one student’s experience isn't the same as every other student.
But when you get a representative group of the population, we can start to meet all the needs of the student body in a very different way.
There's a national survey that many universities do – the University of Missouri has done it before – called the National College Health Assessment, and consistently just looking at the national data for that, it shows that stress is the number one issue.
Like I said, a lot of things overlap with that, you know, academic experience, and maybe dealing with interpersonal relationships might converge to create a really stressful situation for students.
Definitely can be academics, but our students are not just students, they are so much more than that, and they're learning you know, how to be adults that are moving about the world and doing great things, and part of that navigation is figuring out how to manage the stress that comes along with increased responsibilities.
A lot of, you know, health programs have peer educators that kind of help people navigate a lot of different aspects of well-being.Danielle Devers
I don't know that I can say any one thing to convince someone that they ought to come request a program from us, but I guess maybe it would be – that if they feel like they're struggling in any sort of way, there's a lot of resources.
And the peers are not, they're not counselors, but they do know a lot of the resources that are available on campus, and they can help folks navigate that really well.
And if they don't totally know how to connect somebody, they know where to find somebody like me that can help facilitate that too.
So, I'm not trying to make anyone come use our services or engage with us, but our peers are really fantastic people, and they really care about their fellow students.