New to Fairfield University, the platform Togetherall has joined the Counseling and Psychological Services as a peer chat resource, focusing on creating conversations surrounding mental health and serving as an outlet for those struggling.
The addition of this new platform has been heavily advertised all around campus, from the Leslie C. Quick Recreational Complex to the residential and academic buildings.
Togetherall is a resource for all students, but specifically students who may struggle with reaching out for professional help or who avoid talking about their mental health in person. Posters display: “Maybe you are feeling overwhelmed, struggling socially or just not feeling like yourself?”
The posters then advertise Togetherall as a “safe, anonymous, online peer-to-peer community for mental health support” and continue by stating it is “a safe place to express yourself and support each other.”
Health and Wellness Coordinator Pam Paulmann explains that “Togetherall enables students to reach out to peers for support or to give support, and access a variety of tools and resources to help them with specific issues including, stress, sleep and anxiety.”
Additionally, the Togetherall website describes itself as “a 24/7 community of ordinary people, moderated by clinical professionals, where people can get (or give) the mental health support they need.”
Paulmann gives background information on how this resource came to be at Fairfield University.
“In 2022, Governor Lamont allocated funding from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund to institutions of higher education to support the mental health of their students through mini-grants that would increase access to care, provide education and improve awareness of resources, conduct training for faculty, staff and students.”
Paulmann further describes why there is a need for more mental health support on campus with the use of the “Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund Connecticut Campus Mental Health Program (CCAMHP) Overview Document.”
The document states, “The presence of mental health issues among college students is at an all-time high. Fueled by COVID-19, its economic impacts, and mounting awareness of systemic racism and inequality, in the fall of 2020 39% and 34% of college students reported symptoms of depression and anxiety, respectively.”
That same document describes how “83% said that their mental health had recently negatively impacted their academic performance.”
Mental health among college students is in crisis right now.
“This unique moment represents an opportunity to strengthen ecosystems of support to reach the 85% of students who do not engage in college-offered counseling,” Paulmann commented.
Paulmann continues to detail why Fairfield University invested in Togetherall.
“The Task Force to Study the Policies and Procedures Adopted by Each Institution of Higher Education Regarding the Prevention and Treatment of Mental Illness in Students recommended investment in ‘Communities of Support’ that engage leadership, faculty, staff and students in creating holistic, supportive ecosystems that go beyond individual counseling,” she said.
Paulmann describes how “Fairfield University requested funding to engage leadership, faculty, staff and students in creating a supportive environment with access to tools, support, education and resources to better care for themselves and others.”
“We [C&PS] identified two turnkey and scalable solutions; each evidenced-based, to increase access, education and training in our community immediately,” Paulmann stated.
One of those solutions was Togetherall, “a clinically supervised online platform for students seeking mental health support. It uses a peer-to-peer approach to normalize help-seeking behavior,” states Paulmann.
Additionally, C&PS subscribed to Kognito, which Paulmann describes as “an evidence-based online training simulation program that increases knowledge and awareness around mental health and suicide.”
According to Paulmann, Kognito “educates faculty, staff and students to identify signs of psychological distress, including verbal, behavioral and situational cues.”
With this new program, “Users learn to assess the need for referral to campus resources and motivate individuals to seek help,” Paulmann described. “Learners develop skills to lead conversations to discuss concerns, build resilience and increase connectedness.”
Paulmann comments on the anonymity of the platform and the positives that it brings for students who do not feel comfortable reaching out for help through a traditional therapist.
“The anonymous nature of Togetherall creates a safe space for individuals to seek help if they may be hesitant to access traditional counseling services,” she said. “Through the anonymity feature students are free to talk about things that matter to them without the fear of being judged or someone finding out.”
Likewise, anonymity is a key component of the platform because it “can help students open up, seek support and get help in a safe way,” she said.
C&PS does not see that anonymity as a deterrent, “especially because Togetherall enhances our offerings and is supplementary to our wellness, counseling and group services.”
Additionally, in regard to the safety of an anonymous app, she states, “Although users are anonymous there are appropriate protocols in place that medical professionals can follow in case of emergency or imminent threat to get users the help they need.”
As of right now, Fairfield makes up a small percentage of total users across North America, with 100 registered users at Fairfield University, who make up more than the more than 2 million students subscribed to the app from 250 colleges and universities.
Togetherall has been promoted by C&PS for around 60 days now, and Paulmann states that the number of registered users is growing.
Students have not yet been introduced to Togetherall and are unaware of what the platform is and its significance on campus.
First-year Vincent D’Amico states, “I don’t even know what that is. This is the first time I’ve heard about this app.”
Paulmann touches upon the response that students have had when inquired about the app. “When asked, students are very open to it, seem to think it is a good idea and something they would use as a safe space to express themselves and support others.”
Students interviewed by The Mirror corroborate C&PS findings regarding students’ openness to the Togetherall app.
Senior Caroline McConville relays that, “I think it is important the school is being proactive in giving students different outlets to help in mental health, and hopefully Togetherall will make some students feel more comfortable.”
Senior Tess Morrissey shares similar sentiments stating, “I think that this could be a great resource for a student who may be struggling and too scared to actually talk to someone.”
Though student opinions seem open to the app, student users have also expressed concerns in regard to the anonymity of the app. Gabby Clune ‘25 comments on the potential dangers of the Togetherall platform.
“I joined out of curiosity because I am an advocate for mental health and thought Togetherall was a good idea and a positive outlet for people, but since it’s anonymous, it can get out of hand quickly and be scary,” she said. She further explains that “Many triggering comments regarding suicide are often posted to the Togetherall stream and do not get taken down.”
However, Togetherall maintains its platform as a safe space on its website saying, “We have registered mental health practitioners available 24/7 to ensure the community is a safe and inclusive environment.”
The “Wall Guides” are available “around the clock […] to provide support to the entire Togetherall community. You can contact them anytime,” according to the Togetherall website.
Togetherall assures members that “Wall Guides are real people, not automated chatbots.”
Additionally, Togetherall members are given the ability to report or hide any post they feel uncomfortable with.
The Togetherall website also has statistics posted about the overall success of Togetherall. “64% share thoughts and feelings on Togetherall because it’s anonymous” and “93% of members self-reported an improvement to their wellbeing after using,” states its website.
Paulmann describes the many benefits that joining Togetherall will have on students and the importance of having a resource like Togetherall available for students.
Paulmann notes how “Research has demonstrated that people tend to avoid sharing their troubles with friends, family or healthcare professionals,” she said. “Some never go to a doctor for fear of stigma.”
She continues that “Men, in particular, are often afraid to reveal how they feel or what’s troubling them.”
Paulmann cites that “In a January 2022 poll, Fairfield students preferred a peer chat for mental health support over online modules.”
Resources available to students through the use of the Togetherall platform include the community, where students can share and discuss their thoughts and feelings with other members; courses, where students can enroll in self-guided courses to manage and improve their mental health and journaling.
Further resources available on Togetherall include articles and assessments that provide information on different areas of mental health, such as alcohol, PTSD, procrastination, sleep or relationships, as well as self-assessments to better monitor mental well-being.
Once a course is taken on Togetherall, students can have conversations about the course with others who have also completed that course.
Furthermore, Paulmann details that “Togetherall creates space for large numbers of students to support peers struggling with mental health concerns.” And she describes Togetherall as a “moderated mental health community” that “empowers students to anonymously seek support for issues exacerbated by the pandemic like stress, anxiety and depression.”
She continues, “The platform helps reduce perceived stigma, identify at-risk students early and route students to the appropriate care.
Likewise, “The 24/7 nature of the platform allows members to give and get support anytime from anywhere. When peer-to-peer resources are available around the clock, it provides an outlet for students seeking support and creates flexibility enabling those to get help at the time they need it,” she stated.
“Togetherall is monitored 24/7 by clinicians to ensure the platform stays safe, inclusive and open to everyone,” Paulmann concluded.
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