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Combating Loneliness and Isolation in College Students During COVID-19

 DanielleRamo_HiresWeb-1-1-1024x684 Combating Loneliness and Isolation in College Students During COVID-19

Danielle Ramo
from HopeLab
joined me this week to talk about the launch of the Nod
. Nod
was built by HopeLab in collaboration with Grit
Digital Health
Nod’s mission is to reduce loneliness in young people and to
prevent adverse effects during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

is a clinical psychologist and the Senior Director of Research at
HopeLab, which is a non-profit social innovation lab based in San
Francisco creating behavior change tech to help teens and young
adults live happier, healthier lives. Danielle has worked extensively
on projects ranging from addressing loneliness among college
students, teen vaping, mental health of young parents, young people
with cancer, and a multitude of others.

She is also an
Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at UC San Francisco,
leading a research program at the intersection of substance use and
digital mental health. She has published over 80 peer-reviewed
publications and publications on drug use and mental health.

on the Nod app:

Download in Apple
and Google

stores, Nod
one pager
Release on Launch of Nod

with Danielle and her work:

recent article in Thrive Global on ways college students can deal
with loneliness during the COVID pandemic


  1. Dr. Danielle Ramo joins us to talk about the latest amazing solution developed by HopeLab that helps college aged youth deal with loneliness. The app is called Nod and can be found in the Apple app store and in the Google Play store.
  2. Danielle explains a bit about what HopeLab is. HopeLab, founded by Pam Omidyar, is a social innovation non-profit that creates behavior change tech to support adolescent health and wellbeing. They have created everything from video games, to chat bots, and apps that support physical and mental health as well as behavior change among young people.
  3. We talked about a recent CIGNA survey that found 79% of the GenZ population recently admitted to experiencing loneliness. We talked about why young people are struggling with isolation and loneliness.
  4. HopeLab conducted a survey of 1,400 young people between ages 14-22 in 2018. The survey focused on the relationship between technology use, social media use, and experience with loneliness. They found that there was no relationship between extent of social media use, and experiences of loneliness, depression, anxiety, or other negative mental health issues. They did find that there was a difference in how young people used social media based on their mental health patterns.
  5. What is Nod?
    HopeLab and Grit Digital Health worked together to co-create an app called Nod. Nod addresses loneliness among college-aged young people who can often be overwhelmed by the changes they experience in their environment and in how social connections are made when they get to college. College is a risky time in a young person’s life and better interventions are needed. This was the motivation for creating Nod.
  6. How does Nod work?
    Nod is an app that allows young people to notice and address misconceptions they had about making social connections. Friendships do not come easy, however, there is this expectation for many young people entering college that these new friendships should come easy. Nod works to help young people realize this is not always the case and that we all must work hard to make real social connections and that it’s a skill we can work to improve.Two main features:

    a) Challenges – These are actions Nod encourages a young person to take. These challenges can be anything from texting a friend to let them know you’re thinking of them to things like joining a club or reaching out to someone on campus for a specific social reason. Nod wants young people to engage in these challenges in order to make more connections and to learn from their efforts to do so.

    b) Reflections – Challenges can go well or can go poorly. Nod wants to support people to enjoy feeling good after a challenge goes well. At the same time, many challenges will not end successfully, and Nod wants to support young people when a challenge does not go their way. They want young people to learn not to blame themselves or blow things out of proportion. Reflections support people not taking on negative emotions in an unhealthy way.

  7. How much does it cost?
    The Nod app is free for all college students right now. The app will remain free while the shelter in place order is in effect and while we are practicing social distancing.
  8. HopeLab would love to hear from students who use Nod during this time and hear what feedback they have.
  9. We also talked about the opportunity that exists to build mental health solutions around the younger population and specifically the college population. Colleges are not equipped to provide mental health resources to all students. There are a lot of opportunities for technology to be leveraged to build solutions that provide resources to students and provide care to students where the college’s own resources are maxed out. These are also environments where cost and scalability must be considered because college students and education systems typically do not have large budgets.

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