Bryant University welcomes a new organization on campus, Students Support Network (SSN), that was developed for peer support. SSN first started on Bryant’s campus in 2013, but then stopped when the creator of SSN left their job at Bryant. It was recently started up again by counseling service’s Jessica Roche. Roche leads training for students who identify themselves as a trusted listener or helper for their peers. The program trains these students to identify, support, and refer peers who may be dealing with mental health issues or stressors.
According to Worchester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), in times of distress students are more likely to reach out to their peers for help. WPI found that when students were having suicidal thoughts, 67% of the time they disclosed this to their peers. WPI recognized a need for student centered peer programming and developed SSN to meet this need. Now SSN can be found on campuses across the East Coast.
Student Support Network holds a 6-week program each semester for those students who sign up. In this 6-week training program, students will learn important skills such as empathy in order to help students on campus. At the beginning of each semester, an email is sent out to all students asking to come to the information sessions that describe what the organization is about. Sometimes students will be “nominated” to join SSN by professors who believe those students embody what is needed in an SSN member. The main goals of SSN’s core training are: general knowledge of mental health issues, intervention skills including empathic listening/responding, knowledge of campus/community resources, promoting attitudes with de-stigmatize mental health help-seeking.
Jessica Roche, the leader of Student Support Network, answered the most frequently asked questions about the organization. The first question was how can SSN members help peers on campus? Jessica stated: “SSN members can help the community in various ways. The curriculum is comprehensive, didactic, experiential, and provides student trainees a sense of skill based helping support. The 6-week curriculum includes topics on empathy, prevalent mental health issues such as anxiety/depression, alcohol abuse and the warning signs of alcohol poisoning, and suicide prevention. Feedback from the trained SSN network was that the students felt equipped to deal with a peer experiencing distress and felt equipped with how to access resources and services on campus. As data demonstrates that students in distress are reaching out to their friends most often, having positive peer supports is a main contributor to the health and wellness culture on a college campus. When asked why was it was important to bring SSN back, Jessica stated: “Counseling Services implemented SSN several years ago, and we really wanted to bring it back on campus. We feel that any program that cultivates healthy peer support at Bryant University and destigmatizes mental health, is positive for the community as a whole.”
Student Support Network offers a new insight on campus into de-stigmatizing mental health. Most people are hesitant to speak out about their mental wellbeing in fear of being stigmatized. SSN is here to normalize mental health wellbeing on campus and showing students it is okay to speak out about how they are doing and that there is a whole group of students here to help. For more information regarding the Student Support Network, or to get in contact with an SSN student representative, please contact Jessica Roche at JRoche@bryant.edu.