Counseling Center Expands Reach With Mental Health Peer Advocate Program

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 14, 2018) — In an effort to better serve the university, the University of Kentucky Counseling Center (UKCC) has created the Mental Health Peer Advocates (MHPA) program to help facilitate the connection between students and the center.

Over the last few years, mental health has become less of a taboo and more of a widely discussed topic, many seeing mental health as a growing issue surrounding college campuses. Evidence suggests that college students have greater levels of stress than any other age group in the nation's history, with one in four college students diagnosed with a mental illness annually. 

Through this new program, advocates are given an opportunity to greatly impact the university by providing students with information about the importance of addressing mental health issues and educating students on programs offered through the UKCC and on campus.

"There are numerous reasons we are launching this program," said Megan Marks, assistant director and outreach director at UKCC. "First, we understand the tremendous value of students being champions for mental health. We know that peers are one of the most potent sources of influence. Second, while stigma about receiving counseling has reduced, we still have work to do. So, some of our goals with the MHPA program are to continue to reduce stigma about mental health in general, decrease myths and stigma about seeking help and provide more information about strategies to manage stress and concerns before they become mental health crises. Finally, the MHPA program will allow us to receive direct input from students."

All students with a passion for and general understanding of mental health are encouraged to apply to become an MHPA. MHPAs are responsible for developing and executing programs that will do the following: 

  • Promote emotional well-being among the student body.
  • Raise awareness regarding college mental health issues.
  • Provide resources and education related to psychological and emotional well-being.
  • Increase awareness among students about services available to them.
  • Provide a link between the counseling center and student body.
  • Promote a climate of inclusion.

"As part of this program, we aim to help students develop leadership skills, increase their own personal knowledge about mental health, and help create change within the campus culture. The goal of the MHPA program is for students to become agents of change and merchants of hope," Marks said. 

Applications to become an MHPA are due by 4:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16, 2018. For more information on the program and application, visit the Counseling Center website.