Liberty Working To Provide Students With Resources To MAintain Mental HEalth
Young adults currently face a mental health crisis that is unprecedented, and universities across the country are at the frontlines of reaching a suffering demographic.
Liberty is one of these universities trying to provide resources and reach struggling students through services like the LU Shepherd’s Office, the Student Advocate Office, the CARE Team and Student Counseling Services. LU Shepherd Megan McCorkle encourages students to reach out to the resources available at Liberty.
“We are never meant to do life alone,” McCorkle said. “We are called, as believers, to live in community and to have people come around us in times of triumph and in times of hardship.”
Liberty University sophomore Emma-Lee Deeley took advantage of the resources after she faced terrifying health struggles at the beginning of her freshman year. McCorkle reached out to her to see if there was any way she could walk alongside Deeley during one of the scariest times of her life. McCorkle counseled Deeley during the fall of 2019, and Deeley continued LU Shepherd counseling with LU Shepherd Leah Summers once universities went online in the spring.
“I felt a lot more like I wasn’t alone,” Deeley said. “Like the school that I was going to actually cared about me. They actually wanted to see how I was doing and they cared about my relationship with the Lord.”
Liberty University prioritizes the mental health of its students by offering traditional counseling services on campus as well as programs dedicated to the Christ-centered mission of the university. Liberty’s Office of Spiritual Development has a branch known as LU Shepherd that acts as Liberty’s on-campus ministry through a series of leadership positions consisting of directors, LU shepherds, resident shepherds and community group leaders.
The LU Shepherd’s Office offers crisis and pastoral counseling through the individual shepherds and through a graduate intern program overseen by Pastor Tim Griffin. The graduate intern program consists of graduate students with an interest in counseling that meet with students who desire counsel on any one of a variety of issues.
Liberty provides biblical integration in many of its programs. McCorkle understands the importance of sitting across from students and letting them know that they are prayed for and understood.
“To be able to, in hopefully the best way I can, embody characteristics of God to a student in whatever they are facing and point them to truth but then also pray with them, cry with them, comfort them and laugh with them is what we are called to do as believers, whether I was in this position or I wasn’t,” McCorkle said.
Students interested in meeting with a member of the LU Shepherd team can inquire about setting up a meeting by emailing the office at firstname.lastname@example.org or going to Liberty’s website and filling out an intake form. This form allows the office to have a better understanding of what the student’s needs are. Once the form is complete, a member of the LU Shepherd team will reach out to the student within 24 hours and figure out what specific service is needed for that student’s situation.
The LU Shepherd Office refers students to other offices such as the Student Advocate Office, the CARE Team and Student Counseling Services when those offices are better equipped to help a given student or for more severe circumstances when safety and well-being become an issue.
Student Counseling Services offers a variety of resources on Liberty’s website that range from simple relaxation exercises and physical health tips to a plethora of helpful reading materials. They also provide traditional counseling services.
While Student Counseling Services offers hands-on professional mental health counseling, the office is unable to see every student for an extended period of time so the office attempts to assist students for six to eight sessions before connecting them with local counseling services for a long-term treatment plan.
For a student to make an appointment, they can call the office at (434) 582-2651 or use a form on its website to schedule an initial online screening, which will begin the process of partnering professionals with the student to create a treatment plan.
Liberty also works to attack the mental health crisis within the dorms by equipping student leaders on the hall called resident shepherds (RS) and community group leaders (CGL) who live everyday life with the students on their hall and help if students are struggling. Deeley recalled her CGL walking her to an on-campus intake appointment and remembered the relief she felt when her RS and CGL alternated driving her to her off-campus therapist because she did not have her own car as a freshman.
The close mentoring she received from her past CGLs has encouraged Deeley to serve as a CGL herself next year and give other girls the same shoulder to lean on that her freshman CGL gave her.
“She [my CGL] never ever left,” Deeley said. “She was always willing to walk with me through something and help me find a new perspective and bring the Lord into it always. I feel like I have been so blessed by CGLs that now I get to do that for girls over this next year.”
McCorkle served as a CGL, RS, residential assistant and grad scholar and is appreciative to student leaders for what they do behind the scenes and encourages them to continue loving God and others well.
“When you are serving the students on your hall, you are being faithful with what the Lord has put in front of you and there is going to be a reward for that,” McCorkle said. “The reward is coming to know the Lord better and imitating his character in a greater way but also seeing what it is like to completely rely on the Lord’s strength.”
In case of an emergency after the Student Counseling Office’s hours of operation, students may contact their RD or the LUPD emergency line at (434) 592-3911.
Nadia Vires is a Feature Reporter. Follow her on Twitter at @nadiavires.