KPU launches student-led Peer Wellness Program

Virtual wellness and resources are soon coming to a computer near you

Megan Matthews, student health promotion coordinator at KPU. (submitted)

For students hoping to learn more about mental and physical health resources offered by KPU, a new program will soon be able to provide that where students can access it from the comfort of home.

The Peer Wellness Program is a brand new, volunteer-led initiative launching on Feb. 22. Virtual drop-in sessions are hosted by student volunteers five days a week, focusing on available health and wellness resources and social engagement.

They’re not accepting new volunteers, but interested students can check their website for updates. Volunteers undergo extensive training, including listening skills, leadership and presentation skills, and bystander intervention. Matthews says volunteers receive great training that can help them with their future education or career paths.

“We also wanted to find a way to share some information about health and wellness resources that KPU is already offering,” says Megan Matthews, Student Health Promotion Coordinator at KPU. “We know there’s a ton of really great supports and resources that KPU provides, especially around health and well-being, but we noticed that students either don’t know about it or haven’t accessed it before.”

During their drop-ins, students can inquire about what resources KPU provides for health and wellness. These include how to contact a counsellor and what the sports and recreation department offers. The social drop-ins consist of events, games, and other activities where students can make new friends and unwind. The weekly themes vary, but future events will consist of movie nights, contests, online games, and workshops.

“We’re not counsellors or mental health professionals, but we know where to direct you to get the best support that you might need,” says Matthews.

The program has been two years in the making. Matthews says they’ve been looking for ways to address health and well-being issues faced by post-secondary students.

Its three main objectives are to offer social support and opportunities to KPU students by KPU students, provide a one-stop-shop of health and wellness resources, and make the Peer Wellness Program and its team members advocates for health and wellbeing at KPU.

Matthews says the program is very holistic in nature and draws inspiration from KPU’s Healthy University Initiative. The six prongs of the initiative focus on mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, social, and financial well-being, and future workshops and events will touch on these themes.

Matthews says she’d hoped to launch the Peer Wellness Program in-person, but due to COVID-19 had to shift everything online. However, she says this shift in plans hasn’t been all too disruptive.

“I think we actually have more opportunity to engage a broader audience,” says Matthews. “Originally, we were hoping to do our soft launch just at the Surrey campus… [but] now that we’re virtual, we can access all KPU students, regardless of what campus you’re on.”

For the remainder of the spring semester, resource drop-ins are held Mondays from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm, Wednesdays 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm, and Thursdays from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm Social drop-ins are held Thursdays from 10:00 am to 11:00 am, and Fridays from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm.

The event schedule is accessible online, and students don’t need to pre-register, and can simply drop in whenever they like.

Matthews says she hopes people will follow the @KPUPeerWellness Instagram account so students can learn more about the program, team members and enter contests.

“Come chat with a friendly face — a KPU student that probably has experienced some of the same things you have as students,” says Matthews. “We know it’s a really stressful time for students right now, and it’s really uncertain, but it’s so important to remember to focus on your health and well-being, and KPU does have services and supports to support you.”