The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into focus the mental health of college students across the nation. In response to the growing concern among students, college health professionals at Towson University and University of Maryland Baltimore County have expanded its resources online.
Towson and UMBC recently partnered with Togetherall to provide students with free access to 24/7 online peer-to-peer mental health support.
Exam stress, relationship breakdown, loneliness, and anxiety are increasing issues for students during the pandemic, said Matthew McEvoy, senior vice president and general manager of Togetherall in North America. The Togetherall platform allows students to connect with others who are experiencing similar struggles.
“When a student comes to the platform and create an account — they create an anonymous username and that allows [students] to share experiences,” McEvoy said. “There is a community of nearly 2 million students at Togetherall who are there to offer support as they go through it together.”
The partnerships come as the Baltimore County area bolsters its mental health support for residents, colleges and universities.
According to the services’ website, Togetherall is an online mental health service that supports more than 200 postsecondary institutions and millions of students worldwide. The platform is monitored by trained clinicians, offering a safe place for users struggling with stress, isolation, anxiety and other common mental health issues.
UMBC was intrigued by Togetherall’s peer support system and wanted to offer students an additional resource for mental health, said Dr. Bruce Herman, the director of the college’s counseling center.
“We got a lot of requests over the years for students to have a way to get support from each other and support each other and [Togetherall] was a way that provided some faith and a convenient infrastructure to do that,” he said.
Herman said students are really excited about the service and they look forward to supporting each other through the online community.
Towson University’s alliance with Togetherall implements additional support for Towson students in crisis, as an extension of the university’s relationship with ProtoCall Services, which provides counseling center coverage.
“Towson knows we must be dedicated to looking beyond the here and now — to understand there are always going to be underlying issues and that true wellness lies in having the awareness, tools and motivation that lead to sustained well-being,” said Mollie Herman, interim director of the counseling service at Towson University, in a statement.
The university saw the benefits of Togetherall’s platform for creating peer-to-peer connectivity and wanted to address the students’ growing need for diverse mental health support options.
“Certainly, the pandemic’s effects present immediate, unprecedented and intense needs for students that the Togetherall platform seems custom-made to help us address, from combating feelings of isolation and loneliness to 24/7 online access,” Herman said.
Towson also looks to engage a more diverse set of students with the service. According to McEvoy, 40% of student users on Togetherall identify as people of color, compared to the national average of 25% of students who seek help from traditional counseling centers.
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“They were looking for an innovative way to reach more students,” he said. “We know by having access to a community of support like ours — students feel less isolated, they feel better to cope with their day-to-day situation, they feel better to cope with the stressors dealing with COVID, and overall the students’ well-being is improved by knowing they’re not going through this alone.”
UMBC and Towson joined Loyola University Maryland as the higher-education institutions in Maryland to partner with Togetherall during this academic year.
Dr. Jason Parcover, the director of Loyola’s counseling center, encouraged students to experience everything the Togetherall platform has to offer.
“Spend some time on it, explore the various chat rooms and the other resources that are provided,” he said. “I would also tell them that finding ways to connect with others is an important part of mental health and this is a great opportunity to do exactly that.”
Parcover also said he noticed many students who engaged in the service, spent a considerable amount of time on it.
“We interpret this as evidence that their time spent engaged is meaningful and helpful to them,” he said.
UMBC and Towson students can visit www.togetherall.com to access the service, using their academic email address to register.