3 May 2016: Peer counsellors offer a listening ear to fellow students

By Daryl Yang | Images by Aleithia Low

Banner - PS We Care

For several nights every week, instead of returning to her room to complete her assignments or rest, Joceline Yong (Class of 2018) can be found in the Yale-NUS Wellness Centre listening and offering support to her peers as a member of P.S. We Care.

A student-run organisation that provides one-on-one confidential peer counselling for Yale-NUS students, P.S. We Care complements the services offered by the Dean of Students Office Wellness Centre by offering peer counselling beyond office hours. It also provides an alternative source of support for students who may prefer confiding in a peer, rather than a professional psychologist or staff member of the college.

Jolanda Nava (Class of 2017) first suggested the idea of introducing peer counselling to Yale-NUS after having been involved in a similar group in high school to the College’s inaugural Dean of Students, Kyle Farley, who strongly supported such an initiative.

She found several other classmates like John Reid (Class of 2017) and Kei Franklin (Class of 2017) who had also been involved in similar programmes from their previous schools, and together they launched P.S. We Care in 2013 soon after matriculation.

“Our overarching motivation was to make sure that people have the resources to support one another on campus because we believed that a healthy community is a community that can help itself,” Jolanda shared. “We wanted to cultivate peer support as part of our college culture through this group.”

This sentiment was echoed by Joceline, who similarly wanted to foster a more supportive college community through the outreach and training programmes that P.S. We Care also offers the larger Yale-NUS community.

“I realised that the more I learnt about being a better listener, the more I became a better friend. I hope that we can train as many people as possible so that we can build a strong and supportive community and culture where people feel that others do care and are able to care for each other,” Joceline shared.

Counselling room
The cosy room in which counselling sessions are held

Members of the group undergo a series of training workshops before they are qualified to undertake shifts at the Wellness Centre as peer counsellors. Some aspects of the training are facilitated by staff from the Wellness Centre, with whom the peer counsellors work closely with.

“Sometimes when we face a situation that we are unsure about or may need additional support, we turn to the staff from the Wellness Centre for guidance,” Jolanda explained the mutually beneficial relationship between their group and the Wellness Centre.

“We also have a close working relationship with the staff so that we can feel comfortable referring cases to them at the appropriate juncture,” she added.

The peer counselling service has been well-received by the college community, with plans to gradually expand the service to be available on more days and at more times of the week as the size of the community grows.

Joceline also shared that because there continues to be societal stigma about seeking help, the group will continue to build trust with the community so that people will feel comfortable and safe about reaching out for support.

“There is a misconception that you should only seek help if you have a big problem and we hope to change that mindset,” said Joceline.

“Sometimes just talking with someone who is there to listen, no matter how small the problem vexing you may be, can have a very beneficial impact on the way you feel.”

Keep updated with P.S. We Care on Facebook.