By: Mallory Roshkowski – Staff Writer
In 2011, the American College Health Association–National College Health Assessment found that about 30 percent of college students reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function” at some time in the past year. Depression can affect a student’s academics, interpersonal relationships and motivation. Depression is also a major risk factor for suicide.
Many students often turn to their friends and family or therapy as support systems when going through difficult times or suffering from mental illnesses. Others are not as fortunate to have people they feel that they can confide in or trust and might not be able to afford therapy.
Glen Moriarty, psychologist and founder of mobile application 7 Cups of Tea, wondered where those who don’t have a support system turn in a time of need.
“There are two options when students struggle with mental health: family and friends you can trust or therapy,” Moriarty said. He explained that therapy can be expensive and intimidating, especially on a college campus. He and his team wanted to create a quick and easy way for people to get emotional support from trained listeners who are genuinely willing to talk.
With more than 60,000 listeners fluent in 130 different languages, 7 Cups of Tea allows anyone around the world with access to a computer or smart phone to receive help with just a click of a button. 7 Cups of Tea is available as an app on a smart phone or a website. Users seeking a listener simply download the app or visit the webpage and in three clicks are connected to someone willing to listen and help.
Listeners are trained through the Active Listening Program designed by Moriarty, specializing in advanced skills for compassionate communication. All listeners are required to complete this program and interview with the 7 Cups staff before they are allowed to connect with people seeking assistance.
When opening the app or the website, visitors are prompted to connect with a listener by clicking a bright green button. Users of 7 Cups can select the first available listener or a specific listener from the community. Both options ensure a kind and compassionate listener who is willing to help anyone feeling alone or in distress.
Once clicking the ‘connect to a listener now’ button, users are asked to verify their age and are taken to a chat portal where they are prompted to introduce themselves to their listener. When logging on, I was given the name “Sunny Owl” and I was connected with “PaintedDreamsTonight” from the United Kingdom. These usernames are given to assure anonymity. At the top of the chat ,there is a link to a helpline that a user can click during any point of the conversation if they are in a crisis. Users also have the option to browse through more listeners or join a group support conversation at any time.
“On average, 30 to 40 percent of people are struggling at one time ,and it is important for students to know they’re not alone,” Moriarty said.
The goal of 7 Cups is to provide a neutral listener that will not judge or say what to do to try and solve problems. 7 Cups listeners provide support for big existential things or small, day-to-day things that everyone experiences. Ultimately, they are there to help in any way that they can.
7 Cups of Tea is completely free and is available on the App Store and Google Play or online at www.7cupsoftea.com.