Whether big or small, everyone has had a time when they needed someone to lean on. Boston College’s anonymous peer-to-peer text support, Lean On Me (LOM), is working to make sure students have immediate access to help during these times.
Lean On Me at BC is part of the larger national branch that began at MIT in 2014. After a number of suicides on campus, a group of students at MIT responded by creating Lean On Me to serve as a resource and hot-line for students to turn to. The line was used for support in academics or any other issue students may be going through. Since then it has expanded across the country to various colleges including BC, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Chicago, Vanderbilt University, and others.
Reed Piercey, MCAS ’19 and co-founder of the Lean On Me chapter at Boston College said, “After having spent two years laying the groundwork for LOM alongside Cady Sanderson it was so gratifying to watch it launch and develop an organic community of supporters and student users.”
Hugh McMahon, MCAS ’20, current President of Lean On Me, explained that “Our main goal is expansion and to make Lean On Me a staple of BC and its mental health tapestry."
McMahon first became involved with Lean On Me after Piercey approached him with the idea at the end of his freshman year. He aims for Lean On Me to become a structural part of BC and for freshmen to be made aware of the resource as early as Orientation and Welcome Week.
Michael Lange, MCAS ’21, a Lean On Me supporter, described how behind Lean On Me there is a great group of people trying to foster a closer community and to raise awareness of the organization as a resource throughout campus. Their overarching theme emphasizes the importance of validating students’ feelings and experiences and providing an outlet for them through listening.
“It is good that BC has this resource available,” Lange said, “especially with counseling wait times, it is nice that students can have a readily available resource.”
Ally Lardner, ESOL ’21 and Head of Marketing and Outreach for Lean On Me, explained that she has been trying to expand Lean On Me by reaching out to student organizations and posting on their Facebook page. She hopes to connect with people on campus, especially those who would not otherwise feel comfortable reaching out for help.
“[Lean On Me] is something BC needs with a campus full of overachievers and silent sufferers,” Lardner said.
Lean On Me officially launched halfway through last school year and they have been off to a running start ever since, with the volume of texts received increasing due to an organized and passionate group of e-board members and supporters. On average they receive about one text per day.
Starting this year, the organization had their first on-campus retreat and plan to have refreshers every month, where they will share experiences. Representatives from University Counseling Services attend their trainings and they have had success connecting with other offices around campus such as The Office of First Year Experience.
These refreshers have two purposes. The first is to refresh skills and reflect on what has gone well as well as what could be improved upon in the anonymous text conversations. The second is to work on community building through creating a space for supporters to decompress since, while it is a very important role, being a supporter can be emotionally draining.
“It is important to feel in community with the people going through the same service as you,” McMahon said.
The training for Lean On Me consists of an online and workshop training. They emphasize that the philosophy of support is not to give advice but to give people a space to talk and be a compassionate ear for them through listening, asking constructive questions, and validating their experiences.
“I would love for supporters to feel connected, empowered, and in touch with the BC community and feel that the work they are doing is having a positive impact on the community and on themselves,” McMahon said.
Piercey reflected on how far Lean On Me has come since he began the process. “My final semester at BC, when we were finally able to observe LOM in action, was one of the highlights of my college career,” he said.
Piercey is confident that Lean On Me will continue to thrive.
“I was amazed and touched by how many other people cared about this project. Wherever LOM goes in the future, Cady and I can rest easy knowing it’s in very capable hands with Hugh and the current e-board,” he said.
Capable, indeed. Guided by such leadership, Lean On Me is sure to grow into an integral resource on BC’s campus for students to turn to.