Peer mental health counseling offers an important way for students to find help when needed--but training is important

Students seek out peer mental health counseling resources


Peer mental health counseling offers an important way for students to find help when needed--but training is important

College students expressed their desire for peer mental health counseling on campus, which, with the right training for peer counselors, could help lighten the load for campus mental health services.

Peer Counseling in College Mental Health, a survey from the Born This Way Foundation and the Mary Christie Institute, offers the perspectives of more than 2,000 U.S. college students regarding their attitudes toward and participation in peer mental health counseling.

The report’s authors and contributors define peer mental health counseling as “receiving support for your mental health from a trained peer, not a friend.”

Notably, the survey shows that use of peer counseling is higher among Black, Transgender, and first-generation college students. Interest in peer counseling programs has increased overall since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

College-age students have many positive developments in their lives, but they also undergo challenging transitions and change, the report notes.

“College student mental health has become particularly concerning, with students reporting year-over-year increases in anxiety and depression, compounded by the ‘triple pandemic’ of COVID-19, the deepening of vast social inequities, and widespread economic insecurity,” according to the report.

Key findings include:

1. Two-thirds (67 percent) of college students say they have faced mental or emotional issues over the past 12 months.

2. College students need peer counseling, and have demonstrated clear interest in having it available on campus. One in five college students already use peer counseling (20 percent); of the 80 percent who have not used it, 62 percent say they would be interested in doing so. The most common reasons for seeking peer counseling are stress, anxiety, depression, social life issues, and loneliness.

Laura Ascione