The Boston College chapter of Lean on Me, the anonymous peer-to-peer texting mental health support network, has hosted nearly 200 conversations in the time since its launch on Jan. 21 of last year.
“Lean On Me has received overwhelmingly positive feedback, which has been awesome,” said Hugh McMahon, Lean on Me president and MCAS ʼ20, in an email to The Heights. “I think people are excited that a mental health resource exists that has very low barriers to use.”
Reed Piercey, former president of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College and BC ’19, was a driving force in bringing the program to BC.
“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,” said Piercey.
Lean on Me is an alternative mental health resource for college students, particularly aimed at those who may not feel comfortable attending counseling or do not feel that their issues are urgent enough to merit counseling. The program, which was launched at MIT in 2016, has grown into a national organization with branches at several colleges across the United States, including the University of Chicago, Northeastern University, and Vanderbilt University.
Michael Osaghae, UGBC president and MCAS ’20, and Tiffany Brooks, UGBC vice president and MCAS ’21, said in a joint statement to The Heights that Lean on Me has been an important resource at BC.
“Lean on Me has been very effective in creating space for students to be supported in a meaningful and accessible way by their fellow peers,” they said. “Additionally, it serves as a key pillar of UGBC’s wider effort to both holistically support our student body as it pertains to mental health and engage the wider campus community on health and wellness. We are very excited about its growth so far and look forward to continuing to build Lean on Me so that the service can support even more students.”
The BC chapter of Lean on Me is housed under the Student Initiatives branch of UGBC.
“I think it’s almost a trope at this point that University Counseling Services (UCS) is overstretched and understaffed,” said McMahon. “And, of course, any university is going to struggle with a huge pool of people who need emotional support, who need to talk to someone about what they’re going through. And it’s just hard to have the resources on hand.”
Currently, Lean on Me has 25 active supporters, who are BC undergraduate students trained to provide quality emotional support to those who text the Lean on Me hotline. Additional supporters will be recruited in the coming weeks.
“Right now we’re going through the process of honing the training to focus on BC-specific issues,” said McMahon. “We’ve been getting a lot of people texting in with feeling feelings of loneliness, feelings of extreme academic stress, and relationship problems.”
Lean on Me is constantly working to expand its outreach in the BC community, according to McMahon.
“I’d love everyone to have Lean On Me’s number in their phone or on the back of their ID, just so they know they always have the resource when they’re going through a tough time,” McMahon said.
Lean on Me hopes to further improve its supporters’ skills in engaging in conversations on topics like loneliness and academic stress that have proven prevalent within the BC community in an effort to expand its reach and assist more students, said McMahon. Students who are interested can text the hotline to be anonymously connected with a supporter or apply to be supporters themselves.
“When people think about mental health resources at BC, I really want Lean on Me to be one of the first things that comes to mind,” said McMahon.
Featured Image by Leo Wang / Heights Staff