Just Say Know
As Peer Educators introduce ideas, facilitate discussions, and encourage others to share their experiences, one may be asked about personal experiences. In order to remain professional and unbiased, facilitators should consider what is appropriate to share, and when it is fitting to share with their audience. Audience members might ask about a facilitator’s personal experiences using a substance out of sheer curiosity, to relate to the facilitator, or to question their credibility. Because self-disclosure has the potential to both help and hinder how information is perceived, Peer Educators must understand where personal information is relevant, necessary, and beneficial for the discussion. Keep in mind that the advice given below is only applicable in the context of the Peer Education program delivery!
Shared experiences naturally generate meaningful connections. Stories allow us to apply concepts and information to realistic settings. However, when taking the role of educator and mediator, the focus should remain on the audience members. While personal stories might come to mind or relate to the discussion, Peer Educators must first ask themselves if what they want to share is going to benefit the learning experience and maintain an inclusive environment. If asked about personal experiences with a substance, being truthful will set an open and honest tone and defeat stigma that is ordinarily normalized. However, each Peer Educator has the right to privacy and should only self-disclose where they see it as fitting and constructive, and only if it is comfortable for them.
Peer Educators should always prioritize their safety before sharing information that could jeopardize it. Having the chance to safely participate in an open learning environment discussing illegal drug use is a privilege that most people do not have access to due to the illegality of drugs, the disparities between groups that are impacted by the drug war, and the fact that this program is only accessible on college campuses. While self-disclosure can be empowering and meaningful, it is important to keep in mind that risks will still exist until there is an end to the War on Drugs.