chlore-russellChloe Russell, BSc in Govenment, and Allan Rogers, BA in History,  have been volunteering as Peer Supporters, with the LSE Student Counselling Service, this academic year and in this blog they share their motivations, how they’ve made a difference and how other students can get involved.

LSE, while a great opportunity for many in both academic and volunteering terms, can be an emotionally difficult space to navigate. One of the services that the school offers to students is Peer Support, which is tied to the Counselling Service. We are a group of volunteers who receive training in listening, questioning, and responding skills in order to act as a confidential and informal mental health resource for students. We are trained to help students work through issues from workload to suicidal thoughts. We listen to people’s problems and help to reach their own conclusion, without offering advice or judgement. Another part of our role is promoting well-being and self-care, working within halls and on campus. Reading about the volunteering process and the things we’re currently doing at LSE, it will hopefully provide insight into our work and either inspire you to look into it yourself or contact us if you would ever like to talk.

The Counselling Service recruits fresh cohorts of Peer Supporters in April, during Lent Term. Candidates go through an application and interview process in order to receive thirty-five hours of training in communication skills. This year, the cohort trained in Weeks 1-7 in Michaelmas Term. The scheme was expanded in 2016/7 to thirty-four volunteers, ranging from undergraduates to PhDs. While peer support is a significant time commitment, this can be managed; our members are on society committees, working as sub-wardens, or serving as LSESU officers. Peer Supporters are attached to Halls of Residence, either living in amongst the students or living out at their own places. While they focus on their attached hall, Peer Supporters serve all LSE students who need support. As part of the commitments as a Peer Supporter, volunteers must attend fortnightly supervision sessions with Counselling Service professionals to monitor and support our work, ensuring we provide the best standard of care possible to students while taking care of ourselves. We hold promotional events throughout the term to encourage use of the service, get to know students, and encourage good self-care practices. As these events form a large part of our public engagement outside the one-to-one conversations, it’s worth discussing them in a little more detail, especially as you’re most likely to have seen us doing them!

Throughout the year, the student support services at LSE regularly organise well-being stalls, and we work closely with them to help them go smoothly. In October, we held a stall on World Mental Health Day to chat with students, provide them with free coffee, and share information about LSE’s resources to students. As well as this, our teams have organised events at student halls of residence for similar purposes, such as early-morning grab-and-go stalls at Carr-Saunders and Bankside and quizzes at Northumberland. These are light-hearted events that, hopefully, help students feel more accustomed to talking to us as people, as well as trying to create community spaces during the stressful first year at LSE.

We’re looking forward to doing more in the future, as we roll onto Lent Term. On campus, Peer Supporters will be available for a chat during the upcoming RAG Puppy Therapy stall on the 26 January, and Student Wellbeing’s ‘Time to Change, Time to Talk’ stall on 2 February. On 9 February, we will be holding a drop-in session in LSE Life. These events serve as an opportunity to meet us and, of course, receive emotional support for problems you may be having.

As well as working for the community altruistically, there are personal benefits to the Peer Support scheme. That ‘feel-good factor’ is present, helping to knit together the LSE community. One joins with a network of like-minded and emotionally intelligent people who are interested in providing assistance to other students, many of whom we’re esteemed to call friends. We feel confident in saying that the training is useful in personal relationships, within the LSE, between friends, or even with one’s own family. Being able to work with the Warden, Sub-Wardens, and Student Committee teams at LSE is an honour, sharing the views of students and encouraging the best possible mental health environment that we can.

You can always feel free to drop us an e-mail, knock on our doors, or say ‘hi’ if you happen to see us around the LSE campus! To stay tuned with our events during the year, or to find our contact details, take a look at our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

If you’re inspired by Chloe and Allan to get involved in volunteering check out opportunities here and overseas on CareerHub and if you want help choosing the right role for you we can help – book a one-to-one appointment with us.