The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday October 21st

By students, for students: Peer2Peer offers mental health resources at UNC

From left to right: Senior Sage Atkins, junior Toby Turla, and junior Sonam Shah, are co-founders of Peer2Peer. “We are offering a remote peer support system for people within the UNC community to talk about a shared experience,” Turla said.
Buy Photos Sage Atkins, senior Toby Turla and senior Sonam Shah are co-founders of Peer2Peer.

Founded in 2020, Peer2Peer is a student-run organization that offers mental health resources to UNC undergraduate and graduate students.

The organization set itself apart from University services, such as Counseling and Psychological Services by providing one-on-one sessions with peer responders who are also students at UNC.

Senior Sonam Shah, a health policy management and neuroscience double major, is one of the co-founders of Peer2Peer. She said the organization aims to de-stigmatize asking for help and normalize mental health struggles experienced by college students.

Shah, who also works as a peer responder, said that students can connect through shared lived experiences.

"I think there's something to say about a perspective that a student holds and being able to understand that somebody who looks just like me, who is just like me, has experienced things just like me," she said.

To connect with a peer responder, students can fill out a survey on the organization's website. On the survey, students can choose a peer responder, give their contact information and describe what they would like to talk about.

From there, a peer responder will contact the student to set up a time to talk via phone call, Zoom or over text message. Students can choose to remain anonymous on the form.

Junior Michelle Kang, a psychology major, is an executive team member and peer responder for the organization. She said students talking to other students may be more approachable and welcome compared to speaking with counselors.

“Since there is the option of remaining anonymous for Peer2Peer, there's also that safety that they feel talking to us,” Kang said.

Clare Landis, a senior majoring in psychology, is also an executive team member and peer responder who has been with Peer2Peer since it started.

While there are also professional resources provided by the University, Landis said their organization works well in conjunction with those programs.

Landis said the goals of Peer2Peer are to provide student support and act as an intermediary source, standing between friend support and professional therapy.

“When struggling with mental health, I think it is really important to have social support and professional support,” Landis said. "And hopefully that's where we can bridge the gap."

In a statement to The Daily Tar Heel, CAPS Associate and Clinical Director Avery Cook said Peer2Peer is a unique and supplemental resource to CAPS for students to use as they navigate their mental health needs. 

“Through one-on-one conversations, Peer Responders provide non-clinical guidance and insights to fellow students based on shared lived experiences," Cook said. "This peer support can often compliment the clinical support offered by counselors at CAPS."

Because Peer2Peer operates virtually, co-founder Toby Turla, a senior majoring in environmental health sciences, said many students have used its service because they can remain anonymous on Zoom.

“Being in a public space sometimes might make the respondee uncomfortable," Turla said.

Shah said that some students reaching out to Peer2Peer are struggling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Even though things are semi-back to normal, it's really important to realize that it’s okay if people aren’t back to where they are,” she said.

Mental health support this week

Peer2Peer said in a statement that they express their deepest condolences to the friends and family affected by this weekend's incidents.

"We want to emphasize the importance of everyone’s mental health not only during this time of mourning, but every single day," the statement said. "We hope and ask that you all take care of yourselves and your peers and reach out to support if needed."

Peer2Peer will host drop-ins via Zoom with a peer responder on Monday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. All community members are welcome. The Zoom meeting can be accessed here. The meeting ID is 947 3896 3956. 

To learn more about Peer2Peer and the services it provides, visit their website.

university@dailytarheel.com

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