In the months to come, STS is interviewing a number of peers pursuing university degrees in the mental health field. The unique challenges of college education for peers are illustrated in their experiences and stories shared, including how existing accommodations must improve to ensure peer success in their studies.
It’s a growing community of mental health peers returning to college to become mental health providers. There is a built-in benefit in this trend: Mental health peers taking primacy in the mental health provider market results in ongoing successful treatment for peers. Peers treating peers just makes sense.
Encouraging enough peers to enter degree programs is difficult, though, because these programs continue to lack properly enforced scholastic accommodation for the unpredictable nature of symptomatic episodes. The “wash out” rate is significant because the structure of degree programs value benchmarks and expected completion scheduling over the individual needs of candidates.
While university accommodation services are more available, the parameters are so ill-defined by administration and repercussions for non-compliance by educators is so inadequate, scholastic accommodations for mental health peers are easier to ignore than honor.
A prime concern is mental health peers aren’t involved in developing scholastic accommodations. Having peers develop mental health degree program scholastic accommodations for successful completion and graduation is critical, and not as an abstract talking point for consideration, this is required right now and going forward.
Given a choice, peers choose providers who implicitly understand with a unique-to-peers lived-experience empathy. And we peers deserve more providers who are peers. The time is right to change things up. Let’s create an ongoing education environment to support mental peer students. The upcoming interviews have lots of excellent insight on just how to do this.