Peer-to-Peer Texting Service ‘Lean on Me’ Launches

The Boston College chapter of the peer-to-peer texting support system Lean On Me officially launched on Jan. 21 and is now available for use by BC students. To use the service, students who text the hotline number are anonymously connected with a trained student supporter.

There are currently nine supporters trained and ready to converse with those who need it, and there will be 35 more by the end of the three in-person training workshops conducted this week.

“Any supporter that you would talk to on the end of this number is a trained BC student, so they’re familiar with anything you might be talking about,” said Reed Piercey, president of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College and MCAS ’19.

The Lean On Me phone number serves as an intermediary between the student reaching out and the supporter who picks up the conversation. Both the student and the supporter only ever see the hotline number and never the personal contact information of the other person. Whenever a text comes in, every active supporter gets a message just from the Lean On Me number notifying them of it, and if a supporter is available, he or she can claim the conversation.

Lean on Me originated at MIT when a group of students decided to create a service to support mental health on campus after a series of suicides at the University. Piercey has been working with administrators and the national Lean On Me association to make the program a reality at BC since the spring of his sophomore year.

Piercey wrote and passed a resolution within the Student Assembly to create the BC chapter of Lean on Me in April 2017, but the conversation between the Boston College and Lean On Me legal staff elongated the process—the primary concern on the legal end was liability.  

“It was important for us to get that recognition because having that legitimacy from the school does mean that you can take advantage of the full resources that they have and appear fully legitimate to Boston College students,” Piercey said. “You want them to know that this is an official Boston College supported program and is here for them.”

Piercey credits Craig Burns, director of University Counseling Services, as being a vital supporter of the program who helped pave the way for it to get approval at the administrative level.

Piercey said he hopes that Lean On Me will alleviate the present demand on University Counseling Services and provide an additional outlet for students who desire emotional support. It also aims to give first-year students an opportunity to use the service as a source of support amid the transition to college life. He said he noticed many students are willing to reflect on the struggles experienced during their freshman year, but not many reach out while they’re going through it.

“I hear a lot of people talking about their freshman year in hindsight,” Piercey said. “My dream for [Lean on Me] is for it to be a go-to for anyone on campus who is feeling down, who feels like they don’t fit in, and who for whatever reason [doesn’t] think it’s appropriate to go to counseling. And I think a lot of people feel that, especially [during] their first year.”

Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / For The Heights