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Where students can help students

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By Jessica Zysberg

Contributing writer

[email protected]

   In today’s society, students deal with various struggles such as depression or suicidal thoughts on their own and often feel alone. But the University at Albany offers a peer assistance program known as Middle Earth to help with such issues, and the people who work there are willing to speak with anyone who is in need of their services.

   The program was founded in 1970 by a student named Louis Ringe and two other students, who had a vision of creating a crisis hotline on campus to help students with personal concerns and other events at the time.

   Today, the hotline has evolved into an agency that operates as a student-staff service and peer education program and career advisements programs, which are all under the supervision of a director who is a licensed therapist.

   As a senior at UAlbany, Danielle Roth has been working on the hotline for five semesters and “couldn’t be any happier.” The hotline functions as a peer assistance agency, especially after the hours when other campus support services are closed. Roth is a trained student staff member on the hotline. The hotline is an open forum for students. Roth said that the students who work for the hotline are able to help people in all aspects, including people who just want to talk.

   “It is a very rewarding feeling when a hotline call is coming to a halt and the person seems much more alleviated than they did in the beginning of the call,” Roth said. “That is the sole reason I am a part of Middle Earth.”

   Roth first heard about Middle Earth from a friend during her freshman year. An aspiring psychiatrist, Roth always wanted to help people in all aspects of her life.  The hotline functions from noon until midnight Monday through Thursday and 24 hours a day Friday through Sunday.

   Roth’s training process provided to be helpful and prepared her for how to deal with calls on the hotline.

   “The training was very helpful,” Roth said. “Not only did we practice mock calls that we would potentially get on the hotline, but we were also taught about many different mental illnesses as well as personality types. I enjoyed it a lot because I felt that it prepared me for the hotline to the fullest extent.”

   An alternative to the hotline is the online page for Middle Earth Café. This page uses podcasts and other online resources concerning mental health and behavioral issues that are affecting college students on a daily basis.

   In addition, Middle Earth also offers peer education and peer theatre. The program offers theme weeks, consultations, and even resource development. Trained peer educators give the presentations and run the workshops as well. Topics include body image and eating, diversity issues, and concerns about drinking and drugs.

   “Middle Earth hosts Alcohol Awareness Week in October so make sure to look out for our events,” Roth said. “They are really fun and informative.”


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