St Andrews’ LGBT Society has launched their Anonymous Welfare Email, an anonymous online service which promises to listen to students’ issues and problems and offer “non-directive support and advice.”
Saints LGBT hope to provide a “friendly, non-judgemental environment in which all students, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity, can feel comfortable discussing their problems with an experienced peer.”
Problems that the email service might deal with include stress over deadlines, as well as issues relating to gender and sexuality.
As the email addresses of both parties are automatically deleted by the server, the service remains wholly anonymous and confidential, with neither person ever knowing to whom they are speaking.
Sigrid Jørgenson, president of Saints LGBT who came up with the idea for the email service last year while serving as vice-president for welfare on the LGBT committee, spoke about its origins: “It was set up because I felt like there was something missing. I felt that a lot of LGBT+ people at this University weren’t necessarily getting the anonymous support that they needed [and] felt too intimidated to talk to student services or the committee.”
Miss Jørgenson explained that she had wanted to provide “another avenue” for students who require help and advice, “without it having to be face to face.”
“I think it’s easier to ask questions to an anonymous face than to a specific person because there’s a fear of almost being judged when you’re face to face,” she explained.
“Whereas when there’s that level of anonymity, you can be yourself or you can ask questions that you wouldn’t normally feel comfortable asking.”
Joe Tantillo, the University’s Director of Representation, also emphasised the value and importance of the service’s anonymity. He said: “Many students seek support from their peers when faced with difficult personal issues, but occasionally students may be faced with issues that they are uncomfortable sharing with their friends.
“The welfare email provides a platform for them to seek out nonjudgmental listening and guidance in an anonymous manner, which allows them to openly discuss their issues knowing they will have 100 per cent confidentiality.”
Miss Jørgenson contined: “We get a lot of people asking about different societies and whether we have experienced homophobia within those societies, or if we have experienced sports teams being more or less accepting.”
“‘What societies can I be a part of and be openly LGBT+?’ That seems to be the general type of question that we get,” she added.
Miss Jørgenson also stressed, however, that everyone working on the project has had mental health first aid training. “They will go through it before they are allowed to start responding to messages, so we do have that background as well,” she said.
Overall, Mr Tantillo expressed his pleasure at being able to offer this relatively new service to students.
“While the email service is affiliated with Saints LGBT, it is open to all students for use and no issue will be disregarded,” he said.
“Every student should have someone they can reach out to, and this service gives them another outlet which they can rely on for support.”
Miss Jørgenson also explained how the service was not intended as an indictment of existing services such as Nightline, who also provide support and advice for students who may be experiencing stress or other personal issues.
“The difference is that the nondirective advice is based on personal experiences,” she said.
Miss Jørgenson was similarly pleased that the project was up and running. “It’s been a long process putting it together, but it’s so nice now to see people actually using it,” she told The Saint.
She also emphasised that if anyone had any “questions, comments or concerns, they should either come ask me or bring them to Joe [Tantillo], because we can only improve the service if we know what parts of the service aren’t working well enough.”