The Unmasked Project, an app program aimed at creating a supportive anonymous community for college students, partnered with a group of University of Connecticut students to launch an Unmasked forum for UConn students.
Students can share anonymous thoughts and opinions on a safe online platform, according to the Unmasked website. UConn joins seventeen other universities in the mental health focused program. When opening the app, “How are you really feeling today?” pops up, a question meant to encourage honesty and vulnerability.
“As a student movement, we are working to erase the stigma surrounding mental health and lower the barriers to accessing emotional support,” the website reads.
The app can help with individualized mental health by allowing a student to ‘unmask’ feelings while still keeping those feelings private. Mental health is often thought of as a stigmatized issue for young people, and a freely accessible app has the potential to normalize mental health conversations, according to members of Unmasked’s leadership board.
Cassandra Arkhurst, a fourth-semester mathematics and statistics major, is the president and moderator of the UConn app. She believes the app is an outlet for student struggles at UConn.
“It was really cool to be a part of the process,” said Arkhurst, “I enjoyed being able to create a safe space for UConn students to freely vent whatever it is that’s on their mind.”
According to the Unmasked website’s mission statement, the app creates a space for users to “feel heard, supported
, and loved.” Users are safe kept with the help of trained moderators who review flagged posts and remove malicious content.
“Unmasked is premised upon the idea that everyone should have access to an emotional support system. Given the pervasive stigma surrounding mental health at many colleges, we recognize the need for an anonymous, virtual platform that’s rooted in building empathy and supporting others,” the mission statement reads.
Before a user can share a sensitive topic, the app offers protective trigger warnings. Students can receive support for overcoming loneliness and depression, and can also have lighthearted talks to make new friends. Some topics on the Unmasked feed include celebrity crushes and favorite foods.
Besides the anonymous conversations, the Unmasked app also provides a mental health resources tab where the numbers of emergency hotlines and BIPOC-specific health links are available.
According to the Unmasked website, the original app launched at Dartmouth College January 2020 and created a valued space for its users to connect and share struggles. Users have spiked since the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which prevents social interactions between many college students.
“The demonstrated need and high usage rates we saw at Dartmouth inspired us to bring the app to other schools,” the website reads.
The Unmasked app is available on iOS and Google Play, and more information can be found on the UConn Unmasked Instagram page @uconnunmasked.