Conference focuses on Peer Health Educators

Conference focuses on Peer Health Educators

February 17, 2016


[Peer Health Educators]
Keynote speaker Kendra Fisher makes a presentation during the first conference for Peer Health Educators hosted by Queen’s University. Ms. Fisher, a former goalie with the national women’s hockey program, was diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder coupled with severe panic attacks, depression and agoraphobia. (Supplied Photo)

With the growing emphasis on student mental health at post-secondary education institutions, Queen’s University recently hosted the first conference for Peer Health Educators and professional staff which allowed participants to share their experiences as well as the strategies they have developed on their campuses.

The conference provided attendees the opportunity to learn about existing evidence-based programs and services as well as to gain valuable presentation and networking experience.

Olivia Smith, Health Promotion Student Assistant at Student Wellness Services, attended the conference and says she first got involved as a Peer Health Educator because she was interested in health and was looking to collaborate with others while learning more about health promotion.

As a Peer Health Educator she has facilitated workshops at the university’s residences dealing with such topics as safe drinking strategies, mental health and making healthy and creative food choices in the dining halls. Her role also entails taking part in events on campus to promote healthy lifestyles and to develop outreach strategies such as writing articles or blogs and other promotional material.

Her work has allowed her to develop her leadership skills while also being able to contribute as part of a team. As a result, she now knows that she wants to pursue a career in health promotion.

For her, the conference was a great opportunity to meet with other Peer Health Educators and share her experiences.

“I found the conference to be very knowledgeable and overall a great experience. It was really interesting to meet students and staff from different postsecondary institutions across Ontario and to learn more about their peer health programs and mental health initiatives on their campuses,” she says. “I had some great conversations with students from other universities and was able to walk away from the conference with some new ideas for our Peer Health Educator program at Queen's and new connections in peer health around Ontario.”

Along with presentations throughout the day, breakout sessions focused on such topics as stress management, mental health and healthy lifestyles, stigma, and mental health messaging.

Beth Blackett, Health Promotion Coordinator with Student Wellness Services, says the conference was extremely valuable as participants were able to make connections and widen their knowledge to better help those they support.

“I believe this event is so important to both recognize the great work being done by Peer Health Educator volunteers at post-secondary institutions and to motivate and inspire future collaborations and initiatives among these students who are passionate about health,” she says. “It was such a delight to see peers from various institutions connecting with each other over the course of the conference.”

For more visit the Student Wellness Services website.