September 30, 2021
September marks the one-year anniversary of the launch of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Peer Support Core, an organization charged with “increasing resources for programs focused on peer-to-peer support, non-crisis support and discussion” as outlined by the UNC-Chapel Hill Mental Health Task Force. Edwin Fisher, PhD, professor of health behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and director of Peers for Progress, oversees the Peer Support Core.
In its 2020-2021 Annual Report (PDF), the Core highlights its positive impact on mental health and wellness.
“I am grateful for the Core’s collaboration with schools and units to create a University-wide culture of mutual support and understanding,” said Provost Bob Blouin, PharmD. “Building on the strengths of existing programs and offices, their work expands our ability to provide mental health and wellness resources for our students, staff and faculty, and is critical to Carolina’s strategic plan — Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good.”
The report also outlines the growth of the Carolina Peer Support Collaborative (CPSC), a group facilitated by the Core. The Collaborative’s 80+ members represent more than 35 departments, schools, programs and units across the UNC campus that are dedicated to promoting peer support and improving the mental health of students, staff and faculty at Carolina. The Collaborative has been successful in developing shared resources, advocating for a supportive campus culture, and strengthening new and existing peer support programming.
The Collaborative itself reflects the culture that the Peer Support Core seeks to expand across campus: one of understanding and mutuality. One member noted the value of CPSC in allowing members to “share openly their own experiences” and added that they “do so in a genuine and honest way that is not often fostered in other spaces.”
Issues faced by the UNC community over the past year — such as the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing racial injustice — have emphasized the need for the open spaces provided via peer support programming. In order to encourage support and care during this time, the Core partnered with various organizations, such as University Communications, to disseminate resources and messaging regarding how community members can support one another. In addition, the Core was frequently invited to train community leaders and organizations on peer support skills.
Moving into the next year, the Peer Support Core will continue to create and promote diverse models of peer support while encouraging a culture of mutuality. Members of the Core will persist in prioritizing efforts that respond to the racism and inequities with which UNC continues to reckon.
Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health at firstname.lastname@example.org.