The online community supporting student mental health is bigger than you might think. University of Arizona counselors and therapists are committed to bringing this community to the student body on campus. Life has increasingly gone online following the pandemic, and this move has generated virtual means to effectively address mental health, changing the landscape of health assistance for the benefit of students.
Student services have expanded to include TogetherAll, a newly adopted resource within UA Campus Health Counseling and Psych Services. Togetherl has recently emerged as an innovator and leader in improving mental health, and they are doing it remotely. It provides a safe, anonymous space to connect and interact with others who are seeking similar support, a sense of community and improvement in their mental health. Monitored by licensed physicians who provide immediate feedback with full-time access, the platform has been a reference point for many health representatives at the University of Arizona for a reputation for effectiveness.
Assistant Director of Counseling and Psych Services at Campus Health, Debra Cox-Howard, was instrumental in bringing the online community, Togetherll, to campus. While Togetherness is not directly affiliated with UA, efforts by Cox-Howard and others have advocated for its expansion on campus. Its recent addition as a mental health resource will help educate faculty and diversify their portfolio on treatment options when it comes to properly assisting students.
Among the many online services provided by CAPS, Cox-Howard stressed the importance of togetherness. When asked about the program, he said, “They do a great job of linking back to our website where you can find self-help information and other resources available to you as a student on this campus.” All together aligns with the student-driven approach that CAPS adopts to ensure a healthy educational experience. Their approach to online services creates convenience and time efficiency for students, as the choice to support an entirely online platform was deliberate and due to the impact of the pandemic on student life.
Many students continue to learn remotely, and health professionals like Cox-Howard make an effort to visit students where they are. Students have responded that all together helped them feel less alone amid the pandemic. It was a piece of technology that gained popularity from the pandemic, and it certainly validated the idea that there is too much time and cost associated with getting to a meeting that could effectively be conducted online. All Together appeals to students because it is easy to access, always available and free to join.
“2.5 million students [are] The platform has been able to reach out, and CAPS gets thousands of new students who are joining each month, Cox-Howard said.
The sudden influx of students joining online mental health communities is likely due to the comfort in online anonymity and the ability to freely share sensitive information without concern about personal identity or association. According to Cox-Howard, an astonishing “64% of students sharing thoughts or feelings [on Togetherall] Because it’s anonymous.
Anonymity is more time efficient for students simply because it focuses on providing only critical information and avoids any in-person introductions or social interactions that might otherwise impact on students’ treatment processes. Pros and cons exist for both online and in-person treatment, and Cox-Howard believes that online treatment has become strong enough to be as effective as the human presence of a therapist or community group because , “It’s going to depend on the individual and their needs” and “As clinicians we have become more discerning about how we can still interact with students.”
As a senior student, I have experienced UA before and after the pandemic, which brought significant online mental health opportunities to campus. In my experience, health professionals have built skill sets in order to adequately treat patients and attend to their needs virtually. While I personally believe that using TogetherAll will efficiently address your important needs as an individual, helping you perform at your best as a student, the UA Clinical Assistant at the UA College of Medicine Dr. Alyssa Gumm, professor and director of the Addiction Medicine Fellowship, shared another perspective on her experience expanding the online mental health community.
Addiction Medicine Fellowship, composed of student medical fellows, focused on improving individual substance abuse treatment in the greater Tucson community; Fellowship offers a whole host of online services such as telehealth appointments. The addiction community came together to help themselves during COVID-19. While Dr. Gumm was not aware of the TogetherAll platform, she emphasized the easy access to similar organizations that have built supportive online communities. Alcoholics Anonymous, Smart Recovery and the Buddhist Recovery Network, an organization unique to Tucson, offer peer-supported online modalities and recovery models for all mental health and addiction issues. From our conversations, it is clear that many mental health professionals believe that all together and equitably access mental health resources should be an essential part of the student experience.
The first step in addressing your mental health is to interact with a professional support structure, and the College of Medicine has made significant efforts to bring that access online for its patients. “We have to stop thinking that everyone fits into this same box and everyone is going to benefit from face-to-face or virtual,” Gumm said. Available to everyone with access to the Internet all at once, regardless of your schedule or situation. There is room in the space for many conflicts, needs, and healings.
related, UA offers mental health resources to help students
Life moved online may have increased the struggle to control mental health among college students. Since the start of the pandemic, social isolation has been one of the major factors affecting mental health. Fortunately, technology has allowed many aspects of life to continue and many people to get the mental health support they need. Only a Zoom classroom can tell how technology has changed and improved our society to provide more efficient solutions to our most basic needs.
Technology creates convenience and opportunities to meet new challenges and it can help you focus on your mental health. CAPS shows TogetherAll is a great solution for students searching for comfortable and affordable mental health respite. I urge others to explore together to address concerns and make connections. Self-care isn’t selfish and protecting your own well-being should be a priority by every student, even before that overdue homework assignment.
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Luke Hamlin is a senior at the University of Arizona. He loves spending time with friends and family, being active outdoors and saving up for clothes and can be found cheering for the Minnesota Vikings on football Sundays.