The Counselling Centre

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. However, for 2020-2021, their role will be a bit different. They will have a virtual presence online via videos, as well as at various campus activities/events. They will be co-facilitating Campus Connections, which is a program for social engagement hosted by The Counselling Centre. Although the support they offer will be different please reach out and let them know how they can help.

Peer Support is part of the Stay Connected Mental Health Project, is overseen by The Counselling Centre and is in partnership with SMUSA.

Who are the Peer Supporters? 

Mackenzie Zinck

peer support

Mac is a fifth-year student from Halifax, Nova Scotia.  At Saint Mary’s university, he is completing his Bachelor of Science with a double major in biology and psychology and returning for Fall 2020 to finish an Honours project on parental investment in humans.  With hopes to attend medical school in the following fall, Mac has his sights set on a practice in family or geriatric medicine.  He is looking forward to starting the peer support position as he is passionate about mental health and access to resources which promote it.  Being at the end of his undergraduate degree, he feels that he has plenty of experience and tips for both new and returning students which can help them be successful at Saint Mary’s University.  He feels that the best way to destigmatize mental health issues is to talk about them – the more we normalize discussions around mental health, the more we break down barriers for seeking help. 

To view Mackenzie's introduction video please visit this link: 

Alexandra Carroll 

peer support

Allie is a fourth year student completing her Honours in Psychology, Bachelor of Science this year. Her goal is to graduate Spring 2021 and continue on to pursue her PhD in Clinical Psychology. Allie is a certified lifeguard, a trained first responder and part of the SMU Medical Response Team. She provides peer support for students on the Autism Spectrum in university, many who have a co-diagnosis of ADHD, depression and anxiety. Allie believes we need to improve the mental health system in Nova Scotia and is committed to making a difference in this area through her professional career and advocacy.  

To view Allie's introduction video please visit this link: 

Vanessa Pardo


Vanessa is from Colombia. She is a third year 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. 

To view Vanessa's introduction video please visit this link: 

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 one third year student, one fourth year student and one fifth year student. This year we have two psychology students and one biology student representing 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.