The Student Assembly met on Sunday night to consider a resolution that would establish a non-emergency mental health text hotline for students. The proposition, titled Lean On Me, would create a division within Student Initiatives (SI) with 25 student volunteers and an executive board of four students. Known as Lean on Me BC (LOM BC), members would undergo in-person and online mental health training in order to effectively facilitate anonymous conversations with students about their problems. Originally developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the program is being used by other schools such as the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, and Northeastern University.
LOM BC would serve as an alternative to the currently overbooked University Counseling Services (UCS) appointment system. It is no secret that BC is shorthanded when it comes to mental health resources for students. Therefore, the introduction of any new initiatives to deal with issues of mental health on campus is beneficial to the University.
LOM BC shows promise for several reasons. Because the program will employ members of the student body, volunteers will be able to draw from their shared experiences as BC students to help counsel their peers. This is invaluable, as the struggles of those who choose to utilize the service will be better understood by fellow students, and may even be issues that a volunteer themselves has dealt with before and can offer specific advice for.
Furthermore, the plan for establishing LOM BC includes training and vetting that will help to ensure the program’s success. Director of UCS Craig Burns has said that he is willing to provide the necessary mental health professionals to help train students. Volunteers will also be required to complete training used by other hotlines such as Samaritan Hotline, a 24/7 distress service. After students successfully complete this training, they will be required to pass a written test in order to ensure their ability to effectively handle conversations with students.
While LOM BC could prove to be a valuable resource for the BC community, it is imperative that it establish a specific and effective system for reporting emergency situations to the necessary personnel. The developing program should work directly with BCPD to create a system that can directly link a student in a crisis to their headquarters and officers. Although the service is intended to consist of anonymous conversations, the sharing of sensitive information pertaining to self-harm or sexual assault should be reported promptly to the appropriate officials. It is similarly essential that LOM BC market itself clearly as a non-emergency hotline, and not a service for students in more serious conditions.
LOM BC is a step in the right direction in terms of increasing the amount of mental health resources available for students on campus, but the organizers must ensure that they create a plan for addressing the potential arising of an emergency situation within the service.