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When most people are feeling down, confused, or overwhelmed, the first person they turn to is a peer or a friend. This is definitely the case for college students. In fact, a survey published by the Born This Way Foundation and the Mary Christie Foundation found that 1 in 5 college students received some form of peer support, with nearly 60% saying this type of support helped them.
To add to this, mental health issues continue to surge on campuses. Research by TimelyCare found that 9 out of 10 students believe there is a mental health crisis on college campuses.
A student might turn to a peer first for support for many reasons. They may not yet be comfortable seeking in-person support. Perhaps they haven’t deemed their struggles as “important enough” to seek professional help, despite no concern being too small for support. Or the student may just be looking for a peer they can identify with who has been through a similar situation. No matter the reason, offering a peer community on your college campus can help students take the first step toward getting the help that they need.
Defining an online peer community: What is it?
A peer community is just what it sounds like – an online community of student peers who have lived through the same or a similar experience. They can offer each other hope, encouragement, and help in an online forum environment. Since research indicates that college students turn to their peers first, a peer community is an onramp for students to get the help they need.
A peer community doesn’t have to revolve only around mental health issues, like anxiety or depression. It can also include topics like work, relationships, school work, or managing life as a student. The impact of this type of community is part of the overall journey for people to take – whether it’s the beginning of their journey or they’re joining to help others by sharing their lived experiences.
Support students when they need it most
Questions about TimelyCare’s peer community
We didn’t rush into creating a peer community on our platform. In fact, we heard from a lot of our partner schools that students were already looking for a place to share what was going on in their lives and how they could help others going through something similar. We wanted to use the TimelyCare platform for students to get comfortable talking about mental health.
We also wanted to create a one-stop-shop for students. We’ve built this platform for students to get in-the-moment care – both mental and medical – while offering scheduled options, self-care content, and basic needs support. It made sense to add a place for students to support one another in a place where they were already familiar and could get connected to professional help if needed.
To learn more about the newest addition to TimelyCare – Peer Community – I’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions to provide insight into what Peer Community is, how it’s beneficial to college students, and how it can help your campus community thrive.
Is Peer Community a separate app from TimelyCare?
What is the importance of a Peer Community for college students?
At TimelyCare, we want to provide all students access to the medical and mental health care they need. We know that the virtual platform may be the only healthcare access a student has or feels comfortable using. In fact, of students surveyed within the platform, 45% of students said they would have done nothing to seek care or support for their concern if TimelyCare wasn’t an option for them.
Our Peer Community takes a proactive approach to wellness as it allows students to be open and feel confident and comfortable around others. Plus, it gives students the ability to adopt a healthier lifestyle with help from peers. Similar to you and me, we like when we hear our friends, peers, or coworkers recommend a product or service – we’re more likely to buy or use it. That’s the goal of our Peer Community. We want to make health care as accessible as possible for students.
Why should a college student use Peer Community? Who is it for?
The simple answer is, it’s for everyone. The more complex answer is that we’ve created it specifically for the students who might not feel comfortable taking the step to sign up for a TalkNow on-demand emotional and mental support visit through TimelyCare, or be ready to visit the on-campus counseling center. Perhaps they sit in the back of the classroom, don’t love to raise their hand, and don’t want to be perceived as weak for speaking with a counselor.
However, those students are more willing to post about what’s going on in their life on the internet. Students love using Twitter and Reddit! We want students to know that they’re not alone – we’re all in this together. We want students to read something on Peer Community, see themselves in someone else’s post, and realize that others are going through the same things they are. Whether they read the replies for help or simply support the interaction (by clicking the heart), that’s a great first step that they may have not otherwise taken where seeking care is the only option.
Now, we said that this was for everyone, and meant it. Another great part of this community is that it’s great for those that are already comfortable with their mental health and are seeking help. Students are consistently commenting and helping others on this platform. We have an amazing partnership with Active Minds, and student ambassadors who can help, too.
What can someone post about in the Peer Community?
Anything and everything. But before anything “goes live” in the peer community, it goes through a screening to ensure the safety of the student as well as others. Some of the most common topics we’ve seen so far include:
- Roommate issues
- Balance between classes and working
Why is Peer Community anonymous?
How is Peer Community monitored?
Why would a college or university want to add Peer Community to its campus health resources?
Those in higher education are always looking to help students thrive in and out of the classroom, and Peer Community is another tool that can help. Plus, this isn’t adding another login or service for your students because it’s built directly into TimelyCare. Increasing the health literacy on your campus helps students stay in school and graduate.
What are the long-term benefits of a Peer Community for colleges and universities?
For college students, knowing that you’re not alone is always helpful and encouraging to get through anything in your life. Peer Community helps engage more students throughout their health and well-being journey. Our goal is to help higher education leaders create the healthiest campus available to students to help them thrive. And happy, healthy students stay in school. Peer Community is a key piece in meeting that goal.
Interested in what students say about peer support like Peer Community, check out our Gen Ztressed webinar with students talking about their experiences. Want to learn more about Peer Community and how it’s already transforming campuses? Contact TimelyCare To learn more about a virtual health and well-being solution for your school.