We provide a free and youth-friendly social web application designed for students to find school peers within the university to do day-to-day activities. Concordia’s students need to use school email to sign up to our site at th3rdplace.com, this is to ensure their safety by making sure every user is affiliated with Concordia. Then students can find peers to do activities in academic settings such as studying at the library or attending class together and in non-academic activities such as lunch, language exchange, music practice, or sports. All students can easily create or join activities based on their personal interests, preferred group size, and a time that suits them. We emphasize daily activities because many students are too busy to join a club or attend school-organized events, and some are introverts or even suffer from social anxiety to be in a big group setting. Doing activities on a day-to-day basis and face to face with peers help students find a sense of belonging and foster meaningful relationships. Furthermore, our innovation has built-in analytic tools and surveys like the UCLA loneliness scale, these provide data-driven feedback for the university to monitor and evaluate the students’ mental health over time. This part is particularly interesting to Concordia administration, and our team has been in discussion with Campus Wellness & Support Services director Gaya Arasaratnam and Dr. Erin Barker, a member of the Centre for Research in Human Development and Centre for Clinical Research in Health, as they are already conducting a study that assesses student stress and well-being over the course of an academic year.
In summary, improving peer-to-peer social support is a proactive way of building resilience and preventing mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, and students can help each other by connecting in an organic way. With our initiative, 45,000+ Concordia students could have an opportunity to feel empowered in their actions towards improving their own and peers’ mental health by socially supporting each other, as well as helping the university build a collaborative environment.