Accelerating Best Practices in Peer Support Around the World



Amidst many other threats, COVID-19 has caused substantial psychological distress persisting beyond the time of viral spread. Threats to one’s own and loved ones’ and friends’ health, protracted partial social isolation, limited activities, complicated and unpredictable changes in study, work and career pathways, and a cultural and political background of distrust and possible division and strife all make COVID-19 profoundly unsettling.  In addition to the stressors we all share, emerging psychological problems and exacerbation of preexisting ones are gaining recognition.

Much evidence shows the value of peer support in alleviating acute and chronic conditions including psychological distress and mental health.  A leader in the field for over ten years, Peers for Progress has been working to facilitate availability of support and lessen isolation across the Department of Health Behavior as well as in other components of the Gillings School of Global Public Health and University. We hope the presentations, tools, and resources here will help secure the objective that nobody be without someone to whom to turn amidst the threats brought by the pandemic and that will surround us still for some time.

Carolina Peer Support Collaborative

The Carolina Peer Support Collaborative is a network of staff, students and faculty working to enhance mutual and peer support across campus in coping with COVID-19, facing racism and other challenges, enhancing mental health, and building a culture of caring and togetherness.

Program Elements for Mutual Support Amidst COVID

Mutual Support Activities and Groups or “Support Pods” – Units may already have groups of their members who meet and can provide support to each other.  These should be encouraged.  In their absence, Support Pods can be developed.  These can be defined administratively (e.g., department administrative staff) or encouraged among naturally occurring groups (e.g., Moms’ Pod).  Pod members meet through their choice of channels (e.g., GroupMe).

“Pod Reps” can be identified from each already existing group or Pod and meet regularly to identify concerns, brainstorm strategies, and share ideas.

Pods may choose to focus on concrete issues or concerns they share (e.g., studying for comps, meeting university deadlines for budgeting and financial reporting) or may focus on non-business, social discussions (e.g., Netflix best pics).  Some may also choose a shared activity such as making masks or organizing resources.

Peer Support Volunteers (PSVs) – After brief training, PSVs will do several things:

  1. Be available to those who might need someone to talk with – similar to the availability of those trained in Mental Health First Aid or Safe Zone
  2. Reach out to those who may be isolated or dealing with major stressors, self-identified or identified through Pods, etc.
  3. Work with Pod Reps to organize activities or resources in the department and school
  4. Help individuals navigate available resources within their department or organization
  5. Represent and advocate for the needs of those with whom they are in contact
  6. Other activities they may identify as useful or helpful
  7. Ongoing meetings among Peer Supporters to exchange ideas and support in their roles.


COVID Support Resources

Pod Resources


How to be a Supportive Friend During COVID-19

Webinar, March 31, 2020

(Download Slides)

Building Peer Support Programs for Wellbeing at UNC-Chapel Hill

Webinar, April 7, 2020

(Download Slides)

Peer Support Volunteer Training 2

Webinar, May 27, 2020

(Download Slides)


Peer2Peer Training

Webinar, July 19, 2020

(Download Slides)


If you’ve watched the training videos above and would like to be peer support volunteer, please contact us at to get connected with our network.

Connect with the Carolina Peer Support Collaborative and share resources on our Microsoft Teams work group. You will need a UNC login to access this page.

How to Live with Roommates …and COVID-19 from the UNC HealthyHeels blog


How to Start a Pod

How to Start a Pod

What is a Pod?

A self-defined group to communicate with virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. This can be your cohort within your concentration, a group of faculty or staff in the same department, etc. The goal is to ensure that everyone is in a pod.

1. Identify your group

2. Choose your platform

  • Suggested platforms include GroupMe, WhatsApp, Slack, or Microsoft Teams

3. Gather contact information for your Pod

4. Begin Pod

  1. GroupMe (recommended)
    1. See support page
    2. Download the GroupMe app from the App Store or Google Play Store
    3. Create a profile with your name and an optional picture
    4. Create a new chat by selecting the paper and pencil icon in the top right corner of the “chat” page
    5. Opt to “Start Group”
    6. Create a name for your Pod and add an optional picture
    7. Either type in individual phone numbers to add members, or search through contacts who are “GroupMe” users
  2. Introduce yourself to the group and encourage others to do the same
  3. Clarify the purpose of the chat/pod
  4. Send out a message with resources and how to reach you outside of the app

5. Register your pod at the bottom of the page

  • Please register your pod so if the need arises to share resources or reach out to pod representatives, we are aware of who to contact; you may opt to share your name/e-mail publicly or not.


Pod Directory


Pod Name Audience Platform Pod Representative Pod Rep Email
P4P Team Peers for Progress Research Team GroupMe Patrick Tang
HB Faculty in Global Health Faculty in Department of Health Behavior who work in Global Health WhatsApp Suzanne Maman
HB 2016 PhD Cohort HB PhD students who began the program in Fall 2016 Group Text and Zoom Dirk Davis
Barrington Lab Pod Folks working with Dr. Clare Barrington GroupMe Dirk Davis
2021 HB Cohort 1st year MPH/MSPH HB Students GroupMe Eduardo Hernandez
SASAS HB PhD Cohort Starting 2019 GroupMe Sophie To
Moms' Pod PhD and MPH students who are Moms of young children WhatsApp Deborah Baron
HB 2017 PhD Cohort HB PhD Cohort starting 2017 GroupMe Chunyan Li
HB Admin Staff Pod HB Administrative Staff Microsoft Teams Latasha Mingo
Junior HB Faculty Junior HB Faculty Zoom Nisha Gottfredson
HB Research Staff Research-related staff in the Dept of Health Behavior GroupMe & Email Samantha Luu
Golin Lab Teams of people who work with Carol Golin (projects; Core G; interns and students) GroupMe Wendi Seiler
ESE Staff Staff of the ESE Department Microsoft Teams Rhoda Cerny and Jennifer Moore
Gillings Support Pod for Black Students Students who identify as Black Zoom Charletta Sims Evans
Gillings International Student Support Pod Gillings international students Zoom Naya Villarreal
Gillings Pet Lovers Pod Students Faculty and Staff who love pets (you don't have to have a pet to join) Microsoft Teams Jennifer Joyce Moore


Register Your Pod



We’d like to hear your feedback! If you’ve participated in our webinars or used the resources on this page, please take a moment to complete this short survey and let us know how we’re doing. Thanks so much.

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