Volunteers needed to become peer listeners

By: Melissa Schneider / Published: Jul 08,  2010

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium is seeking volunteers to become peer listeners and help others through emotional stresses related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The peer listener training program will train residents to become advisors, friends and referral agents for community members who do not want to seek professional counseling services or who may not know that help is available.

Two training sessions are scheduled:

  • 1-5 p.m., Wednesday, July 14, at the Bayou La Batre Community Center, 12745 Padgett Switch Road, Bayou La Batre, Ala.
  • 1-5 p.m., Thursday, July 15, at the Caylor Auditorium at The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Lab, 703 East Beach Drive, in Ocean Springs, Miss.

Candidates for the training should be highly trusted, dependable community members who are able to keep information confidential. Training topics will include understanding technological disasters, listening and other communications skills, managing anger, identifying depression, assessing suicide risk and more. Peer listener volunteers should be willing to commit time as needed to assist individuals in coping with emotional stress in their communities.

Sociologist Steven Picou of the University of South Alabama, who implemented the peer listener training program after the Exxon Valdez oil spill and has performed extensive research on communities and disasters, will conduct the training. The program is coordinated by the Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant Programs, U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative Extension, Auburn University Marine Center, the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Gulf of Mexico Regional Collaboration Team, NOAA Gulf Coast Services Center and Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Space is limited to 30 individuals per training session. Additional sessions will be planned based on interest.

If you would like to volunteer to become a peer listener, register online at or contact Tracie Sempier, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, at or 228-818-8829 (in Mississippi) or Jody Thompson, Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center and Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, at or 251-438-5690 (in Alabama).


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