story Annie Wang, Contributing Reporter
Students seeking an alternative to our on-campus counselors now have the option of turning to a friend when in need. Starting Aug. 31, P.S. We Care, a peer support student organization at Yale-NUS College, began providing peer counseling sessions every weeknight. Students’ opinions remain divided on this new service.
P.S. We Care’s previous efforts to offer casual peer counseling sessions last year were met with lukewarm response, said Christopher Tee ’17, a member of the organization. The group, founded in January 2014 by Jolanda Nava ’17, will be conducting sessions at a fixed location at regular times throughout the week this semester onwards.
The organization aims to “provide a comfortable, casual setting for students to talk about anything they feel a need to,” Tee said. The members of the organization have received basic training from the Yale-NUS Wellness Centre to equip them with the necessary skills for one-time counseling sessions. For long-term or follow-up sessions, P.S. We Care will refer their peers to the Wellness Centre and other possible resources.
P.S. We Care will work in partnership with and receive funding from the Wellness Centre staff. The organization views itself as an extension of the Wellness Centre instead of a replacement, said Tee.
“Peer counseling has the element of the counselors actually going through first hand what their peers are experiencing,” said Sha-En Yeo, Wellness Director, over an email interview. “[This allows] them to relate to students more directly.”
Sessions will work on a drop-in basis, with no option to make appointments ahead of time. However, some students have expressed concern over not being able to choose their counselors. Harini V ’18 said that she felt it was important for people to be able to choose their peer counselors. “There might be some people you work with on a daily basis, in classes and in co-curricular activities, and you might not want to talk to them,” she added.
Some students have expressed interest in attending peer counseling sessions. V said though that she would only share serious problems with professional counselors, and would feel more comfortable only sharing minor problems with peer counselors. William Goebel ’19 said that advice from peer counselors on academics and residential life is more reliable and legitimate to him because it comes from peers who relate to similar issues.
Other interviewed students said they were more hesitant. Chan U-Chen Jonathan ’19 said that peers might not be able to provide substantial and effective advice due to the lack of experiences that come with time. “I will probably feel awkward sharing personal issues with people from the same social circle, even with the confidentiality promise,” Chan said.
One member of P.S. We Care will be available at the Wellness Centre from 9pm to midnight every weekday.