Alpha Tau Omega has rolled out a partnership with the talk therapy app Talkspace that gives members access to the app for three months.
Talkspace is an app that pairs licensed therapists with customers who want access to talk therapy through instant messaging.
“The consultation therapist will match you with a licensed therapist that’s in your state and you have 24/7 access to your therapist, so it’s like walking around with a therapist in your pocket,” said Amara Saputo, Talkspace’s publicist.
“We’ve always been interested in our members’ overall health, including mental health, so when this opportunity presented itself it seemed like something that made a whole lot of sense to us,” said Alpha Tau Omega CEO Winn Smiley.
The partnership was negotiated in late March and early April, Smiley said.
Saputo said the service offers access to therapy in a way that’s more convenient than in-person appointments.
“It’s all through messaging, it’s a mobile app and that’s really how millennials are spending their time,” Saputo said. “Also, because it’s through a mobile app, students don’t really need to feel embarrassed to seek help because of some of the stigmas that surround mental health.”
ATO has seen positive responses to the partnership from its chapters, Smiley said.
“We had our national convention in August, so with all of our chapter presidents and vice presidents there we brought Talkspace officials in to talk with them. There was enthusiasm from chapter officers there, and then since Sept. 1 we have had a number of undergraduates engage in the service,” he said.
However, Jared Price, the philanthropy chair for UNM’s ATO chapter, said he did not know about the app until a few weeks ago, when another member of the fraternity posted a news story discussing the app with a chapter in Florida.
Now that he is aware of the partnership, Price said he will be telling his brothers.
“Just to send a quick text, talk to therapists over text, is a cool way to just relieve some stress,” he said.
Saputo said college-aged men may face more stigma than other groups when seeking help for mental health issues.
“I think in society today, a man showing emotions is frowned upon and you have to be tough and you have to be hard, and can’t let anything show through,” Price said.
The stigma may prevent students from seeking face-to-face therapy, Smiley said.
“For some students going to counseling or therapy, it might be a little more difficult to get over that stigma, that mental barrier — as opposed to knowing you can go to Talkspace totally privately and no one would ever know, including the guys in the chapter,” he said.
He said more incoming freshmen are beginning college while dealing with mental health issues.
“We think there’s probably a greater need than there was in the past,” Smiley said. “We also think that college counseling centers tend to be very busy, to the point that it’s hard to get in right away.”
Saputo said the ratio of therapists to students on a college campus is not always ideal.
“A lot of times students find issues trying to get an appointment, waiting for an appointment,” she said.
Price said while therapy in person has been very helpful for him, this can be the introduction into that medium.
“If you initiate this conversation through a text and you find that it does help ease some stress just having somebody to talk to, whether it’s through a text or otherwise, this would be a great way to transition to talking to somebody face to face if it actually does help you face to face,” he said.
Smiley said the partnership with Talkspace is the most aggressive a fraternity has worked to provide health services to members.
“I think that chapter presidents generally believed that it was something valuable and based on the number of men who have engaged it clearly there is. They have seen that as something positive,” Smiley said. “We’re really excited about the partnership and hopefully this will not only help our members but will bring more light onto mental health on college campuses.”
Cathy Cook is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Cathy_Daily.