Conestoga news

November 30, 2022 10:04 AM

New peer support program builds connections through lived experience

Conestoga’s Student Health & Wellness has launched a pilot program connecting students with peer support to navigate mental health tools and strategies.  

SPWN F2022.jpeg
Peer Wellness Navigators are available for support at The Breathing Space locations at the college’s Kitchener - Doon and Kitchener - Downtown campuses.

The Peer Wellness Navigator (PWN) program focuses on building networks through lived experience by connecting Conestoga students with other Conestoga students as a wellness resource. PWNs utilize their lived experience with mental health and/or substance use to support students seeking a more informal approach to their wellness needs.

“Peer Wellness Navigators are part of a stepped care approach to mental health and well-being,” said Brayden Lisiecki, a health promotion specialist with Student Health & Wellness. “They are not counsellors, but instead, are students intentionally supporting students to increase wellness and a sense of belonging by being great listeners and connecting them to resources.”

PWNs are available for support at The Breathing Space locations at the college’s Kitchener - Doon and Kitchener - Downtown campuses through facilitated group activities, group drop-in sessions and one-on-one conversations. The Breathing Space provides a calm, quiet place for students to take a break and reconnect. In addition to PWNs, the area offer a calming space for students to relax and destress.

“There is evidence to support the need to offer options for mental health and wellness,” Lisiecki continued. “We know that counselling, for example, may not work for everyone or may be harder for some to access. PWNs can act as a bridge to formal counselling if needed. It is important we meet students where they are comfortable and offer an informal approach with someone who may know what it is like to be in the situation they are in and offer insight.”

The PWN program is part of a student success ecosystem at Conestoga that includes wellness and learning supports such as tutoring, accessible learning, career advising, mental health support and medical care. The program is being piloted with the hope of expanding to other campuses.

In addition to PWNs and The Breathing Space, Conestoga’s Student Health & Wellness offers counselling and other peer support appointments. Visit Student Success Services for more information and visit the Mental Health Resources page or the How to Ask for Help guide for additional tools and mental health support.