RRC launches new online mental health platform

by Raquel Payne

Red River College has introduced a new online platform it hopes will reduce students’ stress.

The Red River ReliefLine lets students connect with trained listeners, using their smartphones or laptops, for peer support any time. This program was created as part of the Healthy Minds Healthy College initiative.

“Sitting down to talk to a counsellor isn’t the exact right thing for everyone at every time,” said Breanne Sawatzky, RRC’s mental health coordinator.

Sawatzky says many students submit counselling forms between midnight and 2 a.m. ReliefLine is an option for students who feel the stresses of their schooling in those late hours when traditional counsellors aren’t available or for those who don’t see one-on-one counselling as an option.

Sawatzky believes this program will be effective because it works well with the student body demographic. She said, through focus groups, the college learnt students prefer to communicate with online messages rather than face-to-face. The platform also lets users choose their preferred language, giving international students the opportunity to communicate their feelings in the language they’re most comfortable with.

ReliefLine is anonymous to protect students’ privacy. This confidentiality is a feature 28-year-old Sarah Stettinger appreciates.

“It’s nice that they took out the personality, so you’re not worried when the person you’ve been talking to walks by,” said the library and information technology student.

Stettinger and other students at RRC believe the program is useful and could have significant impact on student health but are worried not enough people know about it.

Stettinger had heard of ReliefLine but didn’t know what the program was or how to access it.

“I kind of want to say I’m not surprised,” she said. “I’m disappointed because it’s such a good thing and we should be more aware.”

Sawatzky said the challenge RRC faces is raising awareness for the mental health services available to students.

“Usage happens when students tell other students,” said Sawatzky.

She said RRC is making plans to set up an information booth in the college hallways and making posters to try to inform students about ReliefLine.

For more information about ReliefLine or Health Minds Healthy College, students can contact Breanna Sawatzky at blsawatzky@rrc.ca.