Having someone to listen is one of the keys for helping students break through their mental roadblocks.
To help with this, the University of Kansas has a peer listening program — an extension of Counseling and Psychological Services — which is designed for students to stop by and talk to students who are trained to provide support.
“It’s really making sure that person has a comfortable place for them that whatever you’re going to say is important but not as important as what they’re communicating,” said senior Julie Godchaux-Linneman, who has been a mental health peer educator for over a year now.
Godchaux-Linneman and nine other students work as gateways, listening to students who most of the time need assistance with challenges regarding the stresses of being a young adult.
Godchaux-Linneman said it’s important for her to be an active listener, and she puts extra effort into thinking about the other student’s perspective. She wants to make sure she does her best for the individual in need of counseling.
As for the stresses of school, she said the heavy workload of college courses doesn’t always need to be looked at through a negative lens. In fact, Godchaux-Linneman prefers viewing schoolwork in a different manner.
“I think that being busy and doing things that you’re really passionate about can be something that can be very positive for people,” she said.
Struggling with mental health comes with a certain degree of shame attached to it most of the time, Godchaux-Linneman said. She added that she wants people to be more excited about getting psychological help.
Her fellow mental health peer educator, junior Naomi Mendoza, has a similar perspective, saying she hopes the program can help to work against stigmatization of mental health struggles.
“We’re here to support you. There’s nothing wrong with getting help for mental health. I think that’s the biggest thing, decreasing that stigma. It’s like going to a doctor. If you’re in pain you get help for it, and that’s what we’re here for,” Mendoza said.
She went on to say that her personal bouts with mental health in the past give her the confidence to empathize with other students in need of support.
Mendoza along with Godchaux-Linneman and their eight co-workers are in various spots on campus during the week. Peer listeners set up stations at nine different locations on campus. Godchaux Linneman enjoys her trips around KU and thinks it benefits her too.
“This job is amazing for outreach and working with people in a way not that many people our age get to have,” she said.
Students who want to sign sign up to work for the program can on the KU jobs website between April and May, and Godchaux-Linneman said a lot of students apply right away.
“Being in these different places gets into buildings and frames of thought you never would have had otherwise,” she added.
They ended by saying they as peer listeners and an extension of CAPS, aim to empower students by lending an ear.
“We want to help them come to their own solutions,” Mendoza said.