Peer Support

Peer Support

“Peer support is a system of giving and receiving help founded on key principles of respect, shared responsibility, and mutual agreement of what is helpful. Peer support is not based on psychiatric models and diagnostic criteria. It is about understanding another’s situation empathically through the shared experience of emotional and psychological pain.”

(Mead, Hilton & Curtis, 2001, p. 135)

On this page:
What is Peer Support at SMU?
Who are they?
How can I contact a Peer Supporter?


What is Peer Support at SMU?

Peer Supporters are Saint Mary’s students who have lived experience with mental health. They have developed positive coping and resiliency strategies to maintain their wellbeing and are willing and able to support their fellow students in doing the same. They are knowledgeable of community and campus resources and are able to connect students, when needed. Peer Supporters know and understand the challenges of being a student, including how stressful it can be.

Peer Supporters typically provide one-on-one support during drop-in office hours and facilitation of in person educational workshops and activities/events. They also have a virtual presence online via videos and activities/events. Reach out and let them know how they can help!

Peer Support is part of the Stay Connected Mental Health Project and is overseen by The Counselling Centre.


Who are the Peer Supporters? 

Vanessa Pardo

picture Hours: Monday 10:00 am - 12:00 noon & Wednesday 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Vanessa is from Colombia. She is a fourth year honours student at SMU majoring in Psychology and she wants to be a Clinical Psychologist in the future. She is fluent in Spanish and English, has volunteered as a friendly visitor in the addictions unit at the Nova Scotia Health Authourity, and has worked as a cultural assistant in the Language Centre at SMU. Vanessa advocates for mental health awareness, normalizes help seeking and the importance of support when a student has challenges. She thinks that through this role, she can enhance the lives of fellow students. 

Haylea Zinck

 Hours: Friday 10:00 am - 12:00 noon & 2:30 pm - 4:30 pm

Haylea is a 4th year student at SMU majoring in Biology and Environmental Sciences. She wants to become a physician in the future with an emphasis in women’s health. She is fluent in French and English, and is currently volunteering with the COVID-19 testing efforts. Additionally, she works with rehabilitation clinics around the province to coordinate care to patients in coping with injuries and PTSD from car accidents and workplace injuries. In her free time she is usually writing and performing music, or off chasing a waterfall. Haylea advocates for mental health awareness and is determined to normalize seeking care when an individual faces challenges including stress, anxiety, and depression. She believes that this role can create a bridge between her fellow students and the support they need, and she encourages all students to check in with their campus peer support for any struggles they may be facing.

Morgan Scott

 Hours: Tuesday & Thursday 10:00 am - 12:00 noon

Morgan is from Truro, Nova Scotia. She is a 5th-year student at SMU majoring in Psychology (Hons) and wants to be a Psychologist in the future.  Morgan is the Atlantic Regional Student Representative with PEP-AH (Post-secondary Education Partnership – Alcohol Harms) and was a Residence Assistant last year. She is passionate about destigmatizing beliefs surrounding mental health, finding supports for those seeking resources, and is knowledgeable of campus resources.

FAQ's about Peer Support?

1) Is Peer Support confidential?

Yes, Peer Supporters are expected to up hold confidentiality. They receive training on confidentiality procedures before beginning the role to ensure all students feel safe accessing support.

2) Is there a cost to access Peer Support?

No, Peer Support is free for all Saint Mary’s students and any Saint Mary’s student can utilize Peer Support.

3) What year of academic study and program are Peer Supporters in?

A Peer Supporter must be 2nd year or above. This year we have two fourth year students and one fifth year student representing psychology, biology and eviromental science all from the Faculty of Science. However, in previous years we've been fortunate enough to have all faculties represented simultaneously.

4)  What training do Peer Supporters receive?

Peer Supporters undergo three days of training (approximately 20 hours) on topics such as helping skills, responding to distress and stigma from The Stay Connected Mental Health Project. They attend weekly meetings with the on campus supervisor from The Counselling Centre and monthly network meetings with fellow Peer Supporters from other university campuses. They are educated on special topics such as LGBTQ mental health and sexual violence, among others, during their roles. They are not trained to provide professional counselling.

How can I contact a Peer Supporter?

To contact a Peer Supporter, please email

Peer Support is not an emergency service. For Saint Mary’s University students requiring immediate assistance, Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team at 902-429-8167. For non-immediate need contact Good2Talk 1-833-292-3698.

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