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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Friend2Friend: Student-led mental health services on campus

Gracie Kayko

The exterior of the Campus Health building which is located at highland Commons. UA’s Counseling and Psych Services is located on the third floor of the building.  

The stress of spring semester can wreak havoc on students’ mental health, but whether you’re struggling with academics, roommates or relationships, the University of Arizona offers a variety of no-cost mental health resources for those in crisis or simply in need of someone to talk to. 

Both Counseling and Psych Services and Campus Health facilitate student-led groups focused at reaching out to those struggling with their mental health. These groups fall under the umbrella of Friend2Friend, an initiative aimed at bringing more peer involvement into mental health resources on campus. 

“Friend2Friend was actually started quite a few years ago by the Lindon family after their son had passed away. […] They felt that it would be beneficial to have peer to peer engagement […] because they felt like friends often know things before other people. […] There’s a trust amongst peers,” Cassandra Hirdes, an assistant director for CAPS, said.

Since then, the Friend2Friend mission has grown to include groups such as Wildcats Anonymous, Mindful Ambassadors and the WellCat Mental Health Ambassadors. It also offers peer counseling, a completely free service available to all UA students. 

“Our peer counselor program [is] supported by CAPS, so they’re trained by CAPS professionals. […] What we’re doing as CAPS peer counselors is filling a gap or a service need,” Clea Conlin, a supervisor for CAPS peer counselors, said. 

Conlin explains the process and how speaking with a peer can possibly benefit students.

“Before you maybe reach out to [or are] able to be seen by a counselor, you’re able to talk to our peer counselors. […] What we do essentially is called psychological first aid, which is the equivalent of medical first aid: giving [students] resources, connecting [them] to groups on campus […] and providing listening, empathy and all those lovely human traits.” Conlin said.

You can refer either yourself or a friend to CAPS peer counselors via forms on their website. There is also the option of joining a group if you are looking for a supportive community.

“We have quite a few identity-based groups that are free and run by peer counselors at CAPS,” Conlin said. “These peer counselors come from diverse backgrounds, and they want to help. They love listening, they love being a part of the community and they love working in the realm of mental health and [fighting the] stigma around mental health on university campuses.”

Wildcats Anonymous is another peer-led group for students who find themselves struggling with substance abuse.

“What we do is we connect students who are struggling with drug abuse or addiction with a peer mentor […] who has experience being sober and has solutions.” said Puma Palacios, executive director of WA. “We have a lot of resources behind us. If I am mentoring someone I can send them to counseling. If they need someone to talk to, if they need a community of sober people I can [help with] that.”

Along with connecting students to resources, WA also organizes alcohol-free events and hosts weekly open meetings for those struggling with substance abuse in room B307 of the Campus Health Center on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. and Fridays at 8:30 p.m. 

“The peer to peer option I think is a really powerful tool for helping students get connected with resources. I think mental health stigma has definitely decreased, especially amongst the college population, but it still exists. […] Having friends talk about mental health [and] their mental wellbeing […] has a really unique power that’s different than a professional talking about it.” Hirdes said.

If you would like to seek help from any of these peer programs or become involved, peer counselors, WA and all of the Friend2Friend groups can be contacted on their respective websites.

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