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Mental health is a top concern for universities across the United States and UNC-Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) is no exception. Data from UNC-CH indicates that the undergraduate and graduate student populations are experiencing high rates of mental health-related concerns while faculty and staff also express concerns broadly related to their mental health. Recognizing the importance of mental health, the need for cultural changes to improve mental health across campus, and the potential for a breadth of strategies outside of clinical care, the UNC-CH Mental Health Task Force recommended that the University “increase resources for programs focused on peer-to-peer support, non-crisis support, and discussion.” The UNC-CH Peer Support Core was developed to promote that recommendation.

The Core is led by Dr. Ed Fisher and Patrick Tang in the Department of Health Behavior in the Gillings School of Global Public Health. The Core is supported by the Gillings School of Global Public Health, the Department of Health Behavior, and the UNC Systems Office.

For more information about the UNC-CH Peer Support Core, including how to get involved and for assistance, please contact Patrick Tang at ptang@unc.edu

Mission

Our mission is to promote high quality, diverse, broadly available peer support for students, staff, and faculty that provides a social base for individual, group, and institutional coping with challenges; provides a base especially for coping with COVID-19 and UNC-CH’s reckoning with and response to racism and inequity; contributes to overall goals of Carolina Next.

Objective

Our objective is to facilitate the development of mutual support groups and activities and individual peer support in units (departments, centers, offices, etc.) across UNC-CH so that no individual is without someone to turn in coping with the challenges confronting us. We do this by providing consultation and education on peer support principles and evidence, providing training and implementation assistance, and facilitating the Carolina Peer Support Collaborative.

Our Work

+ Carolina Peer Support Collaborative

The Carolina Peer Support Collaborative (CPSC) was started in April 2020 through the initiative of Dr. Edwin Fisher. Having served on the UNC-CH’s Mental Health Task Force and established expertise in peer support and mental health, Dr. Fisher had the idea to use a collaborative learning network structure to bring together parties interested in peer support across the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. Dr. Fisher’s research team, Peers for Progress, has helped to facilitate the meetings and push forward its work. The purpose of the group is to hold a space for sharing ideas related to peer and mutual support and bringing them into action, eventually creating a culture of mutuality all across campus. It provides a space for technical advising and regularly sharing resources, models, lessons learned across schools, departments, and other units.

The CPSC has brought together interested parties from schools and offices across the UNC-Chapel Hill campus who have a vested interest in addressing student, staff, and faculty mental health by building peer support infrastructure. The CPSC currently includes representatives from a variety of health science schools and administrative offices including the College of Arts and Sciences, Office of the Dean of Students, The Graduate School Dean’s Office, The Employee Forum, Student Government, The Center for Faculty Excellence, and The Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Public Health, and continues to expand its network.

+ Mini-Grants to Advance Peer Support

The UNC-CH Peer Support Core administered two rounds of mini-grants between 2022-2023 and 2023-2024. The vision of peer support driving this activity was broad, including formal programs and casual interactions that contribute to feelings of connectedness at UNC-Chapel Hill. Projects could focus on activities, resources, or even physical improvements that facilitate people connecting. Projects could focus on any or all of staff, students, and faculty.

+ LSN Peer Support

Peer Support means getting a variety of support from fellow students. These peers can lend a listening ear, talk you through a problem or concern, and help you identify resources that fit your needs. Speaking with a peer can be helpful because they are students – just like you!  

LSN (Listen, Support, Navigate; pronounced listen) is a peer support program for UNC-Chapel Hill students hosted on the Heels Care Network. It is a quick and easy way to connect with student peers on our campus! LSNers are students who provide peer support by listening to you, supporting you, and navigating you to the appropriate resources. Learn more about LSN.

UNC-CH students can connect with a LSNer by clicking on the chat bubble on the Heels Care Network and CAPS websites. UNC-CH faculty and staff are also welcome to use the live chat for assistance with navigating resources on the Heels Care Network.

Please direct any questions and feedback about LSN to LSN@unc.edu

+ Resources

Seeking Support in Challenging Times and “No Wrong Doors”

How to Support Each Other During Community Mourning

Listening Sessions for Return to Campus and Associated Stressors

Peer Support Core Impact Report

Checking In On Those Who May Be Struggling

Addressing Needs for Support During Diverse Trauma and Distress

Affinity Support Pods

Support for Grief and Bereavement

Addressing Post-Election Needs for Support

How to Help Each Other Through the Off-Ramp

Report on Peer Support: UNC-Chapel Hill Student Groups and UNC System Wellness Programs