Carmen Greiner and Emily Kearney were disappointed in the state of mental health resources on campus during their second year of college. They didn’t let that frustration go to waste.
Greiner, now a fourth-year in English, and Kearney, now a fourth-year in neuroscience, created Buckeye Peer Access Line, known as Buckeye PAL, a nonemergency talk line to provide students with a space for engaging in brief conversations to gain support and learn about campus resources.
“It was really difficult to see people at Ohio State struggling and to know that we are such a prestigious university in so many other aspects, but it was frustrating to see us lacking in mental health resources,” Greiner said.
Buckeye PAL, which launched in September, is run by Ohio State student volunteers who give peer-to-peer assistance on weeknights, Greiner and Kearney said.
Students who call Buckeye PAL can discuss topics such as adjusting to college, balancing stress, managing relationships and navigating personal and social identities, according to the Student Wellness Center’s website.
As they were looking for solutions, Kearney said her mom told her about a student access line she had while attending University at Albany – State University of New York.
Greiner and Kearney said that while doing research, they learned students are more comfortable speaking with other students when compared with professionals.
Kearney said she checked out peer access lines at other universities. With the help of Greiner, she said they emailed the information to Javaune Adams-Gaston, former co-chair of the university’s Suicide and Mental Health Task Force and senior vice president of student life.
“When I sent that email, I was honestly not expecting a reply, but the next day she responded and asked to set up a meeting,” Kearney said.
Greiner and Kearney said they presented their idea to the task force, and in February they began implementation with the help of Counseling and Consultation Services and the wellness center.
Greiner said they received input in the naming process from students in organizations they were involved in.
Greiner said they sent out volunteer applications in spring 2019 to several student group chats and by word of mouth, which led to 16 student volunteers willing to work two-hour shifts and attend biweekly training. Kearney said each volunteer has received training from CCS, the wellness center, the Student Advocacy Center and Title XII.
“Knowing that there is another Buckeye on the line is super helpful for students,” Kearney said.
Greiner said Buckeye PAL is different from other resources on campus because it operates during evening hours and connects students to several resources on campus through a phone conversation.
“At Ohio State, there are thousands of resources for personal and academic life, and it’s more than any one student can know about,” Greiner said. “So, we really want to be a place where students can call and find out what resource will best help them.”
Greiner and Kearney said they released volunteer applications for spring 2020 in hopes to receive more volunteers and extend operation hours.
“As a student, I’ve had moments of anxiety and needing someone to talk to, and I didn’t have that,” Kearney said. “Especially for freshmen on campus, knowing someone is on the line, open to talking to you, I would’ve used it.”
Students can reach the Buckeye PAL access line from 8 p.m. to midnight by calling 614-514-3333 and through the website buckeyepal.osu.edu.