There has been an ongoing statewide effort to increase mental health resources at schools, and thanks to a $300,000 grant, the University at Albany has been able to successfully launch a new research project that includes a peer-to-peer program.

On the soccer field is where Amanda Fowler can show off her fancy footwork.

“It's almost like therapy," Fowler said. "I don’t know, it's a really relaxing activity for me.”

It’s the type of outlet she’s needed for a long time.

“So, I was dealing with depression and anxiety since I was in middle school,” she said.

Fowler spent years helping herself heal. Now, she’s helping others who are struggling, just like she did. She’s a peer navigator for a new suicide prevention and substance use program at UAlbany called project Access.

It's helping students navigate their mental health issues, along with someone their age who has been through it.

“Having it come from a peer rather than an adult just makes it more, I guess, just easier to talk to, and, you know, easier to receive the material, rather than someone looking down on you," said. "Whereas, I have been through that, so we are like on the same level, like side to side, like I’ve been there. I understand what you’re going through.”

The program received grant funding this year to help students at risk for suicide and substance use, with a specific focus on students from marginalized backgrounds, like the LGBTQ community and students of color.

The funding will be used to create a new mental health training program for the school and support peer navigation, which is what Fowler does. She says when your mental health is struggling, it can have a domino effect on your life.

“When a student feels alone, it definitely takes a toll on their social connections, their academics as well,” Fowler said.

The peer navigators meet once a week. There are six of them, but the program will be adding more.

“In our appointments, they’re in control, you know, it’s really student-based," Fowler said. "So just making sure their needs are met and we just give them the proper resources, and not just give them a whole sheet of everything this campus provides, we really try to personalize it.”

Fowler said having a good support system is key to healing, and having someone in your corner makes it that much easier to take the first step toward recovery.