My first few years at university, I felt incredibly lonely and disconnected from the people around me. Having been diagnosed with a mental illness, I struggled with managing both my symptoms and academic responsibilities. I felt like I had no one to turn to and oftentimes felt as though my friends and family didn’t understand me.
Luckily, I ended up getting mental health support by reaching out to the different resources offered on campus. Through that process, I discovered that in addition to the services on campus, there are also several peer support groups hosted at UBC. I started attending them regularly, and eventually, I made some close friends and became a peer facilitator myself.
It’s almost been a year since I became a mental health peer facilitator, and I want to let people know that there is help available out there. Even though it can be hard to find it, it still exists — I promise you.
There are three main peer support groups on campus that meet on a weekly or bi-weekly basis — Kaleidoscope, S.H.A.R.E and VICE. Before going into details, here’s a few things to keep in mind:
- The groups are student-run and operate on a peer-to-peer, drop-in basis.
- They are not replacement for other forms of treatment, such as counselling, and facilitators are not mental health professionals
- The groups are confidential and based on active-listening, rather than unsolicited advice giving
- The groups aim to provide attendees with a safe, inclusive, stigma free and non-judgmental space
Kaleidoscope was the first mental health support group at UBC. Their primary goal is to provide an environment where individuals who identify as having lived experience with a mental illness, or who struggle with other mental health issues, can share their experiences and support each other in the process.
Through open dialogue, Kaleidoscope members have the opportunity to share their stories without fearing discrimination. At the same time, connections are often formed, in the hopes that people feel less isolated and alone in their struggle.
You may want to give this resource a try if: you are facing a mental health challenge or have concerns relating to your mental well-being.
When/Where: Tuesdays 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in BUCH B307 and Thursdays 5 to 6 p.m. in IBLC 157.
S.H.A.R.E (Self-Harm Anonymous Recovery and Education)
Often called the “sister group” of Kaleidoscope, S.H.A.R.E operates using similar group guidelines. S.H.A.R.E promotes self-care and aims to provide support to those directly or indirectly affected by self-harm. The group is recovery-oriented, aims to create a positive space and respects that each person brings a unique perspective or experience.
You may want to give this resource a try if: you struggle with any type of self-harm behaviour, or unhealthy coping mechanism, including but not limited to: physical self-injury, reckless driving, risky sexual behaviours, binge-drinking and so on.
When/Where: Mondays 6 to 7 p.m. in IBLC 157
VICE is an AMS Service that provides peer dialogue, education and mentorship relating to substance use patterns. Every two weeks, VICE collaborates with Kaleidoscope in hosting group peer support sessions. Anyone looking for support regarding addictive substances is welcome.
You may want to give this resource a try if: you have concerns with alcohol, drugs, tech or other addictive substances or behaviours.
When/Where: Every second Wednesdays from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Nest, room 2508
On a last note, I would like to say that at first, I was reluctant to join any kind of support group. I can acknowledge the fact that showing up in the first place can be terrifying —oftentimes, it’s the hardest part. But I also wholeheartedly believe that these support groups are filled with people who are genuine, caring and empathetic.
Every day, I am inspired by their resilience. They offer well-intended guidance and you will often hear them say two simple, powerful words — “me too.” They are proof that we are all in this together, and that you are never alone.