CAPS piloting online platform to support student mental health

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The University of Michigan’s Counseling and Psychological Services is piloting a new mental health and well-being resource that allows students to receive and provide support anonymously through an online peer-to-peer community.

The new service also provides another resource for faculty and staff to share with students — undergraduate, graduate and professional students alike — who may not yet be ready to seek campus resources but want an outlet to share and process their emotions.

Interactions on the online platform, called Togetherall, are anonymous and supervised 24 hours a day, seven days a week by licensed mental health practitioners. Togetherall is an extension of the university’s existing relationship with ProtoCall Services, which provides CAPS After Hours, after-hours counseling center coverage.

“Students who are currently feeling isolated, depressed and anxious may find it challenging to reach out to CAPS or other campus resources and verbally express their needs,” said CAPS Director Todd Sevig. “Peer supports provide these students another option either as a first step, or to complement other help-seeking options.”

The service is available to students for free and joins U-M’s two additional peer support-based offerings for students: the Wolverine Support Network and Individual Peer Counseling.

The new service is part of a broader, institutional effort to meet the emerging mental health needs of students.

Last year, Provost Susan M. Collins and Vice President for Student Life Martino Harmon tasked the 12-member Student Mental Health Innovative Approaches Review Committee with exploring and recommending holistic, innovative approaches to addressing student mental health and well-being.

The committee’s report, published in August, included numerous recommendations, such as expanding peer-support programs and technology-based services.

“Student well-being is foundational to academic success. A crucial piece of our students’ personal support networks are the connections they build with their peers,” said Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones, who co-chaired the review committee with Amy Dittmar, senior vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs.

“In response to the committee’s comprehensive set of recommendations, we are piloting a variety of peer and other types of technologically driven resources that can help students facilitate those connections.”

To further improve student well-being on campus, U-M recently adopted the Okanagan Charter and joined the United States Health Promoting Campuses Network, a cohort of seven U.S. universities committed to becoming health-promoting institutions.

“The Okanagan Charter: An International Charter for Health Promoting University and Colleges”calls on post-secondary schools to embed health into all aspects of campus culture and to lead health-promotion action and collaboration locally and globally.

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