Providing peer-to-peer counseling support
Emily Kearney understands what Ohio State’s students are going through right now. It’s not an easy time, and the hours at home can weigh on anyone’s mental well-being.
The uncertainty of what lies ahead can add to the stress.
As a graduating senior herself, Kearney gets it. What’s more, she knows how to get help. Make a phone call. Talk to someone. Another student. A peer. It’s why she co-founded the Buckeye Peer Access Line (PAL) through the Office of Student Life’s Student Wellness Center. It began in fall 2019, at the start of this school year.
“People are going through it now more than ever,” said Kearney, a PAL student manager and neuroscience major. “We want to talk to people. We want to hear from people.
“We do regular training about every situation that might come up. So during this COVID-19 situation, our volunteers understand how to best respond to someone who may call about a concern.”
PAL’s non-emergency outreach line (614-514-3333) is open 8 p.m. to midnight Monday through Friday. Students who call talk to trained student volunteers for support and to learn about campus resources that may help.
PAL is a “warm line” as opposed to a “hotline,” which is intended for crisis situations. With PAL, no problem is too small. And if an issue seems too big, PAL volunteers can connect a student immediately to emergency help.
The number of callers to PAL has steadily increased since it started. Being a new program, it’s still trying to gain awareness so more students know where to find support. For those who call, the volunteers often ask if callers feel better after the conversation. The answer is regularly yes.
“In an ideal world, Buckeye PAL would be someone’s first step,” Kearney said. “Some students think their problem isn’t big enough. And that’s 100% not the case. Especially right now, this whole situation is bad for everyone.
“Everyone is experiencing something different, so if it’s bothering you, it’s definitely worth talking about. Or if you just want to vent, we’re good for that as well.”
Published: April 28, 2020