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Listen In: UCF's Dr. Karen Hofmann Says Togetherall Could Save Lives. The Website Connects Students with Free Peer-to-Peer Mental Health Support.

Stress, depression, and anxiety can be triggered by natural and man-made disasters. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

A new website called Togetherall is helping University of Central Florida students connect to peer support groups around mental health topics from suicide to depression.

WMFE spoke with UCF’s Dr. Karen Hofmann about the website and how it’s a free and low-risk way for students to get the help they need this semester.

Read the full interview below. 

Dr. Hofmann: It is a anonymous peer-to-peer support. It's an online community where students log on. And there are a multitude of subjects and chat that students can engage in related to mental health.

Danielle: And my understanding is that there are moderators who are actually licensed clinical professionals who can jump in if people might be in direct danger of self harm. Is that right? How does that part work?

Dr. Hofmann: Yes, this is what is great. And what I think separates Togetherall from any just random chat is the site or the platform is monitored by licensed clinicians. And so they're called wall guides. And so they really don't interfere with anything until there may be some language that could be or indicate some level of risk. So I would imagine that something if somebody posts anything with the word suicide or harm of self, that then there would be a wall guide, who would connect with that person check in with them. And the best thing about that is we do have a 24/7 helpline or crisis line that then they connect our students to, so that can speak directly to a counselor.

Danielle: So this doesn't really replace therapy. It's almost like a first step kind of thing, right?

Dr. Hofmann: Yes, absolutely. And to me, this is I was anticipating that, you know, after COVID, and coming back to campus, that students' stress level and adjustment was going to probably be at a higher level than maybe normal adjustments to college. And I wanted something that would be available to all UCF students, and it's free, so they just have to connect by signing up with an email.

Danielle: You know, I'm imagining for students listening to this, if they maybe have, you know, a little bit of anxiety, they might feel like, yeah, this is for them. For students, though, who are severely depressed thinking about suicide. Why is this still for them? Should they still be using this?

Dr. Hofmann: Yes and I'll give you two good reasons. One, therapy, a therapist is not with a student 24/7. So a student outside of therapy needs ongoing support and connection, some motivation, and some guidance. And this is what Togetherall can be, it's kind of something to support them outside of the therapy room. On the other side of that, there are many students who may need therapy, but never engage in therapy, or students who think my problems aren't as big as somebody that might go to therapy. So I don't need therapy, and they may not engage for those reasons or other reasons they might minimize, minimize their issues or challenges. And so Togetherall is this kind of low-risk platform that you can engage and start having those conversations to see if maybe you need a connection with a professional. Or it's something that started minimal, but some stressor happens. You can maybe get a perspective from another student that said, hey, it's maybe time for you to connect with your counseling center.

Danielle Prieur is WMFE's education reporter.