How colleges can learn from the peer support movement

MHA Admin

Mon, 04/24/2023 – 15:12

By Kelly Davis, MHA Associate Vice President of Peer and Youth Advocacy

I came to college with almost a decade of experience using mental health services. However, like many other students, I did not have a plan for the transition to campus life. By my sophomore year, things reached a crisis point. I could not function and was on the verge of dropping out of school and losing my financial aid. That is when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and connected to disability support and intensive mental health services.

While I was lucky enough to get access to mental health support, I felt completely alone. I was embarrassed about this new diagnosis and the many things in my past that led to it. However, throughout my recovery, I began to identify and learn from others with shared experiences. As a result, I felt less shame and more hope for the future, received emotional support, and learned tools to promote my well-being.

As I navigated my own journey, I wondered how many people around me were experiencing similar things. I knew that creating welcoming and supportive spaces, like those I had access to, could help others encountering the difficulties that come with college life while also having a mental health disability – my peers could experience hope and connection and feel less alone.

Yet, when I tried to launch a peer program, I was met with many of the concerns that students across the country still report:

How can students be qualified to support one another? Why don’t you just use the support groups the counseling center provides? What happens if a student has a mental health crisis? Will the university be liable if something bad happens?

I did not have answers to these questions, and my research for campus peer support programs came up short. So, I continued my advocacy on campus and created an informal peer support group that met in quiet spots on campus, and even a student’s apartment.

At the time, I was unaware that there were organizations and individuals who had been leading mental health peer support programs for decades. I would later find out that there is research, technical assistance available for individuals running and launching peer programs, and peer support certification in almost every state.

Since I graduated from college, conversations about campus peer support have progressed. Yet, there is still a large gap between what campuses are trying to figure out and the wide range of resources and wisdom available through the peer support movement.

To fill this gap, Mental Health America partnered with the Temple University Collaborative for Community Inclusion and Doors to Wellbeing to explore the experiences of college students in a new report: Peer Support In College Mental Health Initiatives: Learning From The Peer Support Movement.

Among our findings, students shared that student-led programs offer more comprehensive approaches. Additionally, students want more training on peer support, crisis response, and student rights – all of which can be supported by numerous resources and the vast expertise present in the peer support community.

Students want peer support programs, and much of the campus pushback can be addressed with decades of insight from the peer support community. It’s time to close the gaps between off-campus and on-campus peer support. By working together and sharing knowledge across organizations and movements, we can create a mental health support system that truly meets the needs of all students.


The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will house a “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center, that will provide case management, mental health community advocacy, and oversight from the M.I. Mother’s Keeper mental health advocates. 
The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will offer patrons access to immediate coverage by general surgeons as well as coverage by the specialties of orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology and critical care.
Our goal is to help people in the best way possible in an effort to preserve and to save more lives in the Nation’s Capital and beyond.

Follow Capital City Emergency Trauma & Wellness Center's success:

Sign up to receive updates


Code Red
Gunshot Victim
Life Threatening Wounds
Physical Assault Victim
Severely Injured Auto Accident Victim
Burn Victim
Choking & Breathing Obstructions
and more…


Child Sex Assault Victim
Domestic Violence Victim
Drug Overdose
Rape/Sex Crime Victim
Suicide Watch
Trafficking Victim
Nervous Breakdown
and more…

Mental Health

At Capital City Emergency Trauma & Wellness Center patrons with mental health emergencies that include life threatening situations in which an individual is imminently threatening harm to self or others, severely disoriented or out of touch with reality, has a severe inability to function or is otherwise distraught and out of control, will have access to quality and psychiatric emergency services and referrals.

Physical Health

Whether your life threatening medical emergency involves excessive or uncontrollable bleeding, head injury. difficulty with breathing, severe pain, heart attack, vision impairments, stroke, physically collapsing, or seizure related, rest assured that our professionals will properly assess and evaluate the level of response that will be most needed to help provide stabilized care solutions and minimize complications as well as reduce early mortality.

Holistic Healthcare

We offer healthcare solutions that will support the whole person which includes their physical, psychological, emotional, social, & spiritual wellbeing. Research supports that because your mental state can affect your overall health we support and offer the inclusion of complimentary and alternative medicine(CAM) practitioners and naturopathic doctor recommendations and referrals as a part of our Outreach Community Resource Center’s care regimen and support.


Emergency care can typically result in traumatic injuries for which rehabilitation becomes an essential component of care in trying to achieve the best long-term outcomes for the patient. In addition to speeding up recovery times and helping to prevent further complications, rehabilitative care also helps to support a patient’s self-managed recovery once discharged from our facility. Our Outreach Community Resource Center works closely with our trauma center’s discharge department to assure that patrons requiring these services are linked with qualified professionals who will be accountable to the standard of care required to help the patron be successful in their recovery.

Social Services

Our “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center intends to promote “expansive” beneficial community enriching services, programs, case management, & linkage to “approved” partner resources and supports in all of the following intended areas and more:

Social Services

  • Clothing
  • Food Pantry
  • Housing/Shelter
  • I.D. Credentials
  • Senior Wellness Check
  • Toiletries
  • Transportation
  • Etc.

Extended Family Services

  • Child Care
  • Credit Counseling
  • Family Court Services
  • Legal Aide

Career Training

  • Apprenticeship programs
  • Computer/Graphics Training
  • Culinary Program  
  • GED Courses
  • Hospitality Training
  • Job Etiquette & Grooming
  • Resume’ Prep
  • Sales Training
  • Software/Technology workshops
  • Small Business Training

Return Citizen
Program Partner
(Bridging the Gap)

  • Case Management
  • Temporary Boarding/Housing
  • Transitional Program Registration

Prevention/Intervention Outreach,
Workshops, & Programs

  • After-school Behavioral Health Program
  • Civic Engagement / Volunteer Sign-up
  • Fatherhood Rites of Passage
  • Gun Violence Town Hall Forum
  • Life Coaching & Coping Strategies
  • Marriage Counseling Workshops
  • Medicare Informational Workshops
  • Mentorship Training
  • Parental Classes
  • Support Groups
  • Town Hall Discussions
  • Violence De-Escalation Training
  • Voter Registration

Nutritional Outreach

  • Cooking Demonstrations
  • Dietary Programs
  • Exercise Classes
  • Recipe Sharing Workshops
  • Meal Prep

Community Outreach

The Healthy DC & Me Leadership Coalition is partnering with the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health advocacy organization to provide outreach services on the community level as an aid in reducing the existent health inequities that many District citizens are facing as a direct result of the presence of debilitating social determinants and the lack of culturally appropriate care choices and realities for community members residing in marginalized and lower-income communities.

It is the vision and intentions of the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health Advocates organization to help improve the quality of living for citizens living in our Nation’s Capital and beyond by overseeing the delicate linkage to services and by maintaining higher standards of care accountability for deserving citizens of the Nation’s Capital.

For more information or to enroll as one of our service providers, please email us at: