Peer Coaches: Improving Mental Health Treatment for College Students (2020-2021)

College students face many stressors that can affect their well-being but often shy away from seeking help. Feelings of shame, skepticism about effectiveness and concerns about being misunderstood are common barriers.

DukeLine is a new student-operated texting platform aimed at improving the mental health of students through anonymous peer support within minutes of outreach. A complement to existing resources, DukeLine gives students access to free, anonymous peer support.

The option to text an anonymous fellow student trained to serve as a peer coach offers a low-stakes avenue for seeking support. Students can test what it feels like to share vulnerabilities. Coaches take part in a semester-long training course for credit.

This project team organized the pilot launch of DukeLine in three campus communities, collected pre- and post-text data from users and coaches, and developed infrastructure for expanding the service. Pilot data indicate that users are extremely satisfied with DukeLine and likely to reach out to a peer coach for support in the future.


Fall 2020 – Spring 2021

Team Outputs

Team website

Accessible Mental Health Support for College Students (2021 Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Virtual Showcase)

DukeLine: A Peer to Peer Support Program (poster by Jacqueline Cruz, Amber Fu, Jalisa Jackson, Camden Nelson, Leslie Leal Palacios, Urmi Pandya, Elizabeth Roy, Brooke Scheinberg, Savannah Erwin, Talita Ahmed, David Goldston, Guillermo Sapiro, Timothy Strauman, Sue Wasiolek, Sarah Gaither and Nancy Zucker)


Jalisa Jackson

This Team in the News

Bass Connections 2020-2021 Annual Report: Selected Highlights

Senior Spotlight: Reflections from the Class of 2021

Duke Innovates Together to Advance Health Care

‘In-the-Moment’ Mental Health Support for Students From Their Peers

Making Small Steps Toward Change, One Op-ed at a Time

This project team was originally part of the Education & Human Development theme of Bass Connections, which ended in 2022. See related teams, DukeLine: Peer Mental Health Support for Graduate Students (2021-2022) and Virtual Avatar Coaches: Improving Mental Health Treatment for College Students with Accessible Peer Support (2019-2020).

4 Easy Steps to Text DukeLine

Team Leaders

  • Sarah Gaither, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Guillermo Sapiro, Pratt School of Engineering-Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Nancy Zucker, School of Medicine-Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

/graduate Team Members

  • Savannah Erwin, Psychology-PHD, Psychology-AM

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Jacqueline Cruz, Computer Science (BS)
  • Amber Fu, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Jalisa Jackson, Psychology (AB)
  • Leslie Leal Palacios, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Camden Nelson, Biology (BS)
  • Urmi Pandya, Psychology (BS)
  • Elizabeth Roy, Psychology (BS)
  • Brooke Scheinberg, Mathematics (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Jonathan Bae, School of Medicine-Medicine: General Internal Medicine
  • Gary Bennett, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Richard Chung, School of Medicine-Pediatrics: Primary Care Pediatrics
  • David Goldston, School of Medicine-Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Timothy Strauman, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Sue Wasiolek, Student Affairs

/zcommunity Team Members

  • iCarol