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Photo from Katherine Ponte

Months into her first year at Penn, 2001 Wharton MBA graduate Katherine Ponte was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. A year later, she found out she had bipolar I disorder, which she continued to battle for more than 15 years. 

Ponte said she had always dreamed of studying at Wharton, but felt overwhelmed by how competitive the program was when she arrived. She received direct support from Penn's Counseling and Psychological Services, who referred her to an off-campus psychiatrist. Ponte said she does not believe she would have graduated without this support at Penn.

More than a decade after leaving Penn, Ponte's exposure to peer support has inspired her to launch a new online network called "ForLikeMinds," which aims to connect people struggling with mental illnesses, particularly college students. 

ForLikeMinds was officially launched this month during Mental Illness Awareness Week, which occurs in early October. After registering on the site, which is free, users can connect with others who can choose to display personal details such as age, location, and race.

By using the private message box, users can chat one-on-one with each other. They can also communicate through individual message boards or forums. 

“I would be thrilled and absolutely touched to see Penn students on the platform, helping [one another] in the way our platform was meant to be used,” Ponte said. 

College freshman and Active Minds member Emily Hong said she thinks the site would be useful given how intimidating it can be to seek mental help in person.

“I hope that this site will help increase the number or proportion of people [at Penn] who reach out for help,” she said. 

In her video about her mental health journey, Ponte stated that, “The battle of mental illness can be won, but we need each other. Ours is a community of great courage and strength.”

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