Published 04/09/14

Counseling Service initiative provides students with tools to support peers in need

Life at a university can be overwhelming at times for some students who are learning to cope on their own with academic and emotional stresses for the first time.

When students struggle, they often turn to friends and peers for support. Many students report that they don’t feel confident or well prepared to help someone who comes to them with a problem, notes Jamie Salacup, a counselor in the Office of Counseling Services.

"Students told us the topics were everyday experiences that they had come across"

Salacup introduced the Student Support Network (SSN) at Bryant in the fall. Co-facilitated by Chris DaCosta, academic advisor, SSN is a four-week program designed to equip students with the skills and confidence to engage in important conversations and help their peers in need.

Students attend evening sessions once a week to learn essential interpersonal skills such as active listening and empathy. In addition to those foundational skills, students are trained to recognize and respond to signs of distress and crisis, including addiction, depression, and suicide.

They also learn about various resources on campus and when/how to refer a friend for help.

The feedback from the inaugural program was “outstanding,” says Salacup. “The students told us the topics were everyday experiences that they had come across on campus and no one [else] is really talking about them.”

As part of the highly interactive sessions students take part in, they discuss and practice these skills with each other, including role play as a group dealing with real-life scenarios.

“The Student Support Network is enhancing the students’ feelings of connectedness and responsibility for each other. These are interpersonal skills that are going to help them here [at Bryant] and for the rest of their lives,” notes Salacup.

The Office of Counseling Services will offer the training to small groups of undergraduates each semester.

Originally published in the Winter 2014 edition of Bryant magazine