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March 15, 2023

CU Lux Student Starts Mental Health Support Group


By Anne Kerhoulas


The stats are in and the outlook is bleak: universities are failing to provide adequate mental health services for their students. While the pandemic has certainly worsened the situation, the crisis was in full swing before lockdowns and remote learning. And at top-tier universities where the pressure to perform is the daily sustenance for most students, the mental health of students is even more grim. 


suffering

At Princeton alone, 35% of students reported developing a mental health issue after starting at the university. To make matters worse, most top universities have remarkably poor mental health services, with one survey ranking Penn as the ivy league university with the best mental health services—their grade was a D+. Yale and Dartmouth received F’s. It’s common practice for students who seek mental health care to be sent home— often into unhealthy and unsympathetic environments. This practice incentivizes students to not seek help when they are in crisis.


When Holly Basile ’23 arrived at Yale as a freshman, she had no idea that by the end of her first year, she would be in a full-scale mental health crisis. She struggled to find the resources and care she needed, reaching out to a high school teacher who became a lifeline. It was this teacher who pointed her to Christ for the first time while also providing the support she needed as she grappled with her mental health. When she returned to campus, she was a believer and sought out Christian community for the first time, quickly connecting with CU Lux through a friend. What Basile found surprised her.


“I think there is this elavilnews.com on the outside that there is more stigma in the church [surrounding mental health] than there is. There’s this idea that if you’re struggling with mental illness, you’re not praying enough. That was my perception when I first came to the church,” reflects Basile. “But the people who have helped me the most are Christians. My teacher made sure I was alive and not going to hurt myself. He is a Christian and that love was so different to me. He understood mental illness.” 


Though Basile went on to take a year off to pursue treatment after her sophomore year, she attributes much of the emotional and spiritual support she has received in college to the community of CU Lux. 


“The church is full of people who know what it's like to suffer, to have a mental illness, who are so incredibly helpful when it comes to dealing with it, and how to understand mental illness in terms of faith.”


Basile has seen firsthand that Christians have the unique ability to care for those who are suffering, to walk with them, bear their burdens, grieve, and acknowledge pain all while holding fast to the hope that is in Christ. Christians have the resources to look depression and anxiety in the face and still have hope and access to true and lasting healing and sustenance.


Inspired by the power of the gospel and the real needs she saw in her peers in CU Lux, Basile launched a weekly group with the intention of connecting the gospel to the mental health struggles she and her peers were dealing with. 


“I’d been thinking about starting this group for a while. A big thing that I noticed with the CU community is that people like looking a certain way and can put on a facade sometimes. And that's because we want to help other people and don't want to burden others with our burdens. It started cultivating a culture of being less human—a perfectionistic culture,” says Basile. 


“I had been told that I wasn’t the only one who struggled with mental health, but at the same time, it seemed like I was because no one was talking about it. I wanted to start this group to talk about things and be open. I think a huge part of community is being open about your struggles because sin and shame really thrive in darkness. But once we bring it to light and have a community that loves us through it, that’s what fosters change—and that’s why I wanted to create this group. I wanted people to know that we all struggle and that's part of being human.”


Community at Yale


The group is modeled after Celebrate Recovery, a 12-step program that invites participants to share vulnerably, admit their weaknesses, and find encouragement in Scripture and community. After sharing names and what they are currently struggling with, Basile leads the group through a devotional that is based on Scripture, a time of reflection and sharing, and prayer.


“The important thing about the group is that we don't give people advice, we just let them share. It really allows people to feel like they can say what they need to say and they aren’t going to get backlash for it or be shamed. It allows people to be more open,” says Basile.


“It’s been so wonderful to watch because some people who have felt shame about some sin that is committed, they bring that to the light and see that we still love them and are going to help them through it. We are able to remind them of the truth of who they are and how much God loves them. It's a really beautiful group and will continue it next semester every other week.” 


Though Basile’s group is just getting started, it has already been a blessing to members of the CU Lux community as they seek healing and wholeness in Christ. But Basile also sees mental health as a means to reach out to non-Christians. 


For Basile, who was suffering from PTSD and didn’t feel like she could ever be loved, hearing the gospel changed her life. Knowing that the God of the universe saw her and loved her and that she didn’t have to prove herself or earn that love was the best news she could have heard when she was in her darkest moments. So much so that Basile says, “I think the gospel can save lives.”


May it be so, that the students of CU Lux can offer a safe haven for those struggling with mental illness and the best news they will ever hear—that God sees them and loves them.