Letters to the Editor

Our Reader: Syracuse University needs a peer listening service

I have struggled with maintaining my mental health over the past three and a half years at Syracuse University. I would have benefited from speaking anonymously with a fellow student when my problems felt oppressive but too trivial to go to a counselor or call a crisis hotline.

Syracuse University should have a peer listening service as an additional line of support within the umbrella of counseling services it offers students. This would empower and support the students who do not always want counseling but need someone to talk to. A peer listening line would offer active-listening services for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and it would function separately from the Counseling Center.

According to a 2013 Active Minds survey, more than 80 percent of college students felt overwhelmed with all their responsibilities in the past year. Stress during college is often taken as an unavoidable truism. However, the harsh realities of navigating mental health and trying to find support are nothing to write off or take for granted.

A peer listening service might help prevent students’ mental health concerns from becoming more serious because students would talk through their stresses relatively early on.

There is an oppressive amount of stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness, which dissuades students from seeking resources they may need. A peer listening service is a necessary, accessible, and financially expedient way of adding another node of resources to the ones that currently exist on campus.

With a peer listening service, students would be able to communicate anonymously—which encourages more transparency and less fear of judgment—with peers who likely share their concerns, anxieties, and insecurities.

Several schools in New York State—and others across the country—have peer listening programs that allow students to talk about stresses and concerns anonymously with their peers. These schools include Bard College, the University of Albany, Barnard-Columbia, and Binghamton University.

An additional line of support—other than the 24/7 crisis hotline, for example, which is for emergencies—would provide students with more options. When it comes to mental health, variation in resources is essential because people think, operate, struggle, and recover in different ways.

Students who are on call would listen to callers’ concerns and suggest referrals as necessary but not suggest or advise lifestyle changes as a counselor would. Many students simply need someone who will provide non-directive, active listening.

Hasmik Djoulakian

Syracuse University ‘17

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