Editor’s note: The names Abigail and Carolyn are aliases to protect the identity of the students.
by Esther Fultz
In recent years, particularly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the topic of mental health has received increased attention. Americans are struggling with mental health now more than ever. And college students, who are living away from home for the first time, are particularly susceptible to mental health struggles. Cedarville University is working to positively address these challenges on campus by creating a strong, Christ-centered support system and providing free counseling services for students.
Abigail has been attending counseling through Cedarville since September.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but it’s been really good,” she said. “I’ve never had anxiety, but I have certain things that make me feel the way I’ve heard people describe anxiety. I met with a counselor, and apparently, I have a specific phobia.”
Abigail said she currently meets with her counselor weekly.
“She started out by talking through different coping strategies like breathing and muscle relaxation,” she said. “We talked about thought replacement and how to journal through strong emotions, and now we’re working on exposure. She lets me work at my own pace and doesn’t make me talk about anything I feel uncomfortable discussing.”
Carolyn used Cedarville’s counseling services her freshman year for grief counseling and generalized anxiety.
“We mainly focused on coping skills,” she said. “We made a toolbox of strategies to combat grief and cope with it, as well as the anxiety and depression that come along with that.”
Misha Harris, a second-year Cedarville student, only had one encounter with the counseling services office but described her experience as positive.
“My counselor was good at knowing what kind of questions to ask and what steps should be following that,” Harris said. “The way she approached it was very logical and step-by-step. It really helped to see everything laid out that way.”
While Harris said she was initially apprehensive about counseling due to negative prior experiences elsewhere, Cedarville’s counseling services exceeded her expectations.
“I appreciated that the Christian faith is integrated into it without it being the sole focus,” Harris said. “The Bible is woven into everything, but the counselors there understand that there are multiple aspects to mental health.”
Freshman Ashlyn Helm hasn’t attended counseling at Cedarville herself, but she is a strong advocate for student mental health. She said her own mental health has improved since coming to Cedarville due to its support system and greater intentionality in her relationship with Christ.
“Jesus will help your mental health,” Helm said. “It won’t be fixed 100% because some of it is due to genetics. I can’t solve all my anxieties or my mental health problems, and I think the church needs to understand that and work to support those who struggle, whether that’s talking about it more in sermons or creating support groups for those who are struggling.”
Carolyn also mentioned support in a church context.
“I tried a support group for a little while at my church while I was in high school,” she said. “I think that really helped me because it helped me realize that I wasn’t the only one in the church who dealt with mental health issues, especially because two of the women in the group who struggled with the same things I did were older, and I saw them as leaders.”
Abigail expressed a similar respect for her on-campus counselor as a fellow believer in Christ.
“Knowing that I’m learning everything I am from someone who is also a Christian and loves the Lord has been so good,” she said. “I would recommend counseling services to anyone.”
“It isn’t talked about enough,” Harris said. “You hear about the services, and you know they’re available, but you don’t understand everything they do or how helpful it is until you seek it out for yourself.”
Supporting those who struggle with mental health, whether that’s through formal counseling or informal church groups and peer support, is vital if we want to live lives that honor Christ.
“Second Corinthians 1:4 says we can comfort others because we have been comforted by Christ,” Carolyn said. “It’s encouraging to know that the struggles I face can equip me to better serve others.”
Esther Fultz is a sophomore Social Work major and a Campus and Off Campus writer for Cedars. She enjoys writing songs, spending time outdoors, and drinking coffee.