With a focus on mental health, new chat service lets students quickly get support

January 22, 2021

Student Experience

The University of Richmond’s commitment to students’ well-being will expand this month with the launch of a new non-emergency, mental health chat service.

The text-based chat service is known as a warm line, rather than a hot line that designates a crisis, and is meant for UR students who want to talk to a peer. All chat responders are trained to provide empathetic and confidential mental health support starting Jan. 28.

“The non-emergency chat line will be staffed by Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) peer support specialist interns, some of whom are psychology and healthcare studies majors,” said Kristen Day, assistant director of clinical services. “It’s geared toward students who are lonely or feeling anxious.”

Day began planning for the service, called the CAPS Peer Support Warmline, in 2018. Supported by staff within UR Well, it is launching on the heels of the Well-Being Center’s opening.

“The goal is to provide a hands-on learning experience for students to provide direct support,” Day said, “and to have someone who is informed and more accessible for people to lean on instead of going directly to friends. It’s another option for students and another layer of support.” 

Each peer support specialist completes an application and interview. Once they complete a semester-long training they are able to work the warm line. For those considering a career in counseling, one of the best ways to learn is through direct experience, Day said.

Operating out of the Well-Being Center, a group of 10 students will manage the warm line this spring and another incoming group of 19 students will run it in the fall. A CAPS clinician will be on call as well. Students will access the chat feature through the CAPS website.

At this time, the service is designated for current students only, but Day said it could open up in the future to include other members of the UR community.

The warm line will be available from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., Thursday through Monday.