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Online peer-to-peer support: a win-win for your college’s student mental health and diversity missions

01 Mar 2021 | By Giulia Basana

Long gone are the days when higher education’s only job was to meet students’ academic needs. Higher education has evolved into a multidimensional arena, taking a leading role in nurturing the whole student as an individual, as well as being an essential contributor to the health and progress of the society in which students live. With the ability and responsibility to significantly influence their campus community and the world beyond, colleges and universities often discover that various components of their mission are intertwined and working in tandem.

A prime example can be found at colleges utilizing Togetherall’s peer-to-peer online platform to support their student mental health programs. Colleges are discovering that the platform—in addition to its main purpose of providing students with a safe way to connect with peers and get support for the many emotional issues that come with being a student—works to advance diversity and inclusion initiatives, and helps to combat mental health disparities. Before I get into the dynamics behind this, consider this one statistic backing up the assertion. Forty percent of Togetherall’s user base is students who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color).

All types of higher-education institutions are stepping up to heed the call for prioritizing a more diverse, inclusive campus community, yet students from traditionally marginalized groups are often among the first to need mental health support. Every initiative—from the construction of new dorms to academic offerings and class syllabi to meal plans, scholarships and more—must demonstrate a clear, results-driven strategy for achieving greater equity of opportunity, regardless of race, faith, lifestyle, financial status, physical ability and so forth. This is no easy task, and there is no one-size-fits-all plan. Nor is there a “finish line”—successful diversity and inclusion strategies will continually evolve to match the changing makeup of our society.

However, Togetherall can support the efforts of colleges when considered a part of the larger diversity picture. Moreover, the platform inherently evolves with the population utilizing it. Consider these attributes of the Togetherall platform:

  • Diversity: Because there are thousands of students in the community, it is naturally diverse, not just racially (as noted above) but also in terms of age and gender, with 22% of student users over the age of 25 and 4.5% identifying as neither male nor female. This diversity makes it extremely likely that a student will be able to connect with peers like them.
  • Anonymity: 67% of students share on Togetherall because it is anonymous. It is a community without discrimination. Students can be fully confident that nothing will be revealed about them that they themselves do not share.
  • Accessibility: As long as students can get online, they can join a community—24/7 and at no cost. No matter where they live, how much money is in their bank account, if they need support at 3 a.m. or any other imaginable scenario, a student can benefit from peer-to-peer support.
  • Safety: Togetherall’s Wall Guides are licensed mental health practitioners who manage and monitor the community 24/7. This helps ensure a safe environment that is welcoming and supportive of a diverse community.

 

Ultimately, the achievement is the removal of the mental health stigma and the normalization of feelings and experiences, which forms a solid foundation for emotional wellness. Moreover, in lowering barriers to entry, the platform engages harder-to-reach individuals and helps close the gaps in mental health disparities that have existed in our society for generations. Regardless of a student’s particular issues, color, beliefs or lifestyle, Togetherall levels the playing field in a way that is nonjudgmental and fully focused on peers supporting peers. The impact of this is becoming increasingly evident as more colleges offer our platform, and we will continue to work with them to ensure this path.

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