Togetherall, an ATU Student Counselling Service initiative, provides round-the-clock access to an online community moderated 24/7 by healthcare professionals who are trained to intervene or escalate whenever necessary. The support network is designed to provide preventative and early intervention support that integrates with existing higher education mental health services, augmenting traditional services such as counselling with online platforms and tools. Togetherall is the only digital mental health provider with such a large student community providing managed peer-to-peer support.
This project is made possible by funding from the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (DFHERIS), that supports sector-wide projects that deliver on the National Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Framework, and matched funding from HSE Mental Health Operations. The project will be led and delivered through Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education Ireland (PCHEI) and was launched nationally in October by Minister Simon Harris,
Minister Simon Harris says ‘As students and staff returned back to college campuses last year, we made a commitment to provide the supports to assist them in whatever way we could. I am delighted to follow through on this commitment with funding for this vitally important partnership between PCHEI and Togetherall. Students endured an incredibly difficult two years during the pandemic, with the long-term impact on their mental health potentially significant. While we have invested heavily in enhancing student counselling services, and innovative mental health and wellbeing supports for students, there is always more we can do. This partnership we are announcing today will provide students with 24/7 access to mental health support, and I want to thank everyone who worked so hard to make this valuable initiative, which will have such a positive impact on people’s lives, a reality.’
Dr Orla Flynn, President ATU states: ‘I am really pleased to acknowledge the launch of Togetherall as a ground-breaking initiative that will make a strong contribution to supporting the mental health of our students, providing round-the-clock access for those in difficulty. We need to do our utmost to support any students who are struggling with mental health issues, and I’m particularly heartened that this is the result of the collegial work of the combined Counselling Services across Atlantic TU.’
Togetherall is able to reduce stigma and encourage sharing: 73% of its members shared a thought or feeling for the first time; 65% use it outside normal working hours, when traditional services are more limited; half of all members stated anonymity was the main reason for joining.
Henry Jones, CEO, Togetherall explains: ‘We are delighted that Togetherall’s online peer support can now be made available through universities across Ireland. We’ve seen how offering a choice of services and easy-access tools can help to serve a wider range of needs and a larger proportion of students, every day we see the power of people helping each other by sharing their thoughts, feelings, stories and encouragement.’
Leading this initiative, Chairperson of PCHEI, Treasa Fox, talks about findings from national and international research showing that higher education students have experienced a range of negative impacts from the Covid pandemic and associated restrictions, and that they have lived through a form of ‘fracture’ in their social norms which is significant. Treasa explains why Togetherall was chosen: ‘In Student Counselling Services, we’re hearing so many students talk about loneliness and isolation. The connections that Togetherall offer in their peer support communities have never been more needed. The fact that it’s anonymous and moderated by mental health professionals mean that it’s a very safe space to connect, to talk about what’s going on, to give and receive support.’
The Togetherall initiative meets several key themes within the National Student Mental Health & Suicide Prevention Framework, on the 2nd year anniversary of its’ launch, including ‘Engage’, ‘Identify’, ‘Support’, ‘Transition’, and ‘Improve’.
The HSE, in line with National Mental Health policy, Sharing the Vision, is committed to investment in digital services that make it easier for people to access effective support options quickly.
Derek Chambers, HSE General Manager, National Mental Health Operations states: ‘Research continues to show that young people engage well with digital mental health support. We know that early intervention can make a huge difference and availing of online supports with professional oversight can provide timely supports to young people on their terms and at no cost to them.’
The most important aspect of this partnership is that students get the choice of support they need, when they need it. Beth O’Reilly, President, Union of Students in Ireland (USI) says: ‘The rollout of Togetherall in our colleges and universities will provide another important tool for students, along with existing supports, such as Student Counselling Services. The fact that support is available on Togetherall at all times is a huge advantage to it for students who are struggling.’
This innovative partnership gives the student population in ATU choice and flexibility. Existing students at ATU can register for support at Togetherall.com.
Key Contacts: Dervla Fahy (Galway / Mayo - Dervla.Fahy@atu.ie), Nicole Murray (Donegal - Nicole.Murray@atu.ie), and Siobhán McNally (Sligo / St Angela’s - Siobhan.McNally@atu.ie)
Find out more about PCHEI
PCHEI is the representative body of Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education in Ireland. It provides support for counsellors and facilitates continuous professional development. PCHEI also liaises with statutory bodies and other relevant agencies on student issues. Visit the PCHEI website at www.pchei.ie
Find out more about Togetherall
Togetherall is the leading peer-to-peer online mental health service that already provides access to a safe community moderated by licensed clinicians, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to over 300 higher educational institutions across Europe and North America. Harnessing the protective and therapeutic effects of connectedness and healthy social networks in its unique community where people share with, and support each other. A social impact organisation guided by three core principles of inclusive access, measurable impact and financial self-sufficiency and stainability, it is on a mission to make mental health support accessible, scalable and available to all. Visit the Togetherall website at www.togetherall.com
Find out more about the National Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Framework
One of the framework themes, ‘engage’, requires that we “create campus communities that are connected, safe, nurturing, inclusive and compassionate. Higher education institutions need to foster the development of student wellbeing through community connectedness, purpose, engagement and belonging. Institutional culture needs to reflect diversity, inclusivity and compassion, and in doing so they support Goal 2 of Connecting for Life, which is to ‘support local communities capacity to prevent and respond to suicidal behaviour.’