Assessing Effectiveness of CHATogether – An Online Peer Support Program During COVID-19

According to a recent study by Yale researchers, a digitally-held, culturally-based support program is an effective support model during COVID-19 

Originally created with the intent to boost emotional wellness among young Asian Americans and their families, CHATogether (Compassionate Home, Action Together) eventually expanded to help members cope with the negative affects inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the course of 2020, COVID-19 sparked significant loneliness, anxiety, and depression when people were forced to become socially isolated after stay-at-home and lockdown orders were mandated. CHATogether’s objective was to unite people with similar experiences and challenges, curb feelings of loneliness, and provide an empathetic space for others to take and offer advice.

The Framework of CHATogether

The structure CHATogether’s meetings is interactive and culturally charged. Members meet on a weekly basis where they begin each session by checking in with all group participants. Members then move on to engage in ‘role-play dialogues’ where family conflict scenarios are formed. What’s unique about these discussions is they are focused on topics and issues that are exacerbated by the pandemic, such as, the challenges Asian Americans face, homeschooling, BLM, and LGBTQ conflicts. A role-playing model allows members to leverage real-life scenarios to try and overcome internal conflicts and gain better agency.

Assessing Outcomes

To understand outcomes of this support program, researchers organized a qualitative focus group using 10 CHATogether members and discovered 4 ways the program improved the mental health and well-being among participants.

  1. Offers a safe and supportive environment fueled by the feeling of belonging
  2. The structure of the program is consistent and stable – weekly meetings are held where members are exposed to consistent support
  3. Virtual setting adaptation leads to cognitive flexibility
  4. Encourages health coping mechanisms

Next steps of the CHATogether program include investigating how this program can extend to help the mental well-being of other minority groups.