On Jan. 13, the GUSA Mental Health Committee announced a new initiative, Project Lighthouse, that offers an anonymous online chatting space that Hoyas may use to discuss questions or struggles that they are facing with trained peer supporters. According to the GUSA press release, Project Lighthouse aims to “expand and improve the quality of mental health resources available to students.” Through the provided online chatting spaces, Georgetown students are encouraged to discuss any of their challenges, “from class-related stress and sleep problems to thoughts of self harm,” as reported by the announcement.
A critical detail of Project Lighthouse is that the program is “student-led and operated,” as Hoyas are to apply to serve as peer counselors to facilitate the dialogues that take place on the site. After eight weeks of training with experts at Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) and Health Education Services (HES), volunteers within the Georgetown community would be able to guide Hoyas seeking help to appropriate resources and professionals. Peer Supporters will be a “first line of information for students” as they are “easy to talk to, and knowledgeable on navigating the system, and able to lend a sympathetic ear in stressful times” said Ben Johnson, Chair of the Mental Health Committee and a leader of the initiative.
Although Project Lighthouse is independent from GUSA, the organization’s current leaders are excited to support the initiative. “We are thrilled that Hoyas are actively working to improve and expand the mental health resources available to fellow Hoyas” said GUSA President Joe Luther (COL ‘16) In order to further gauge student interest, a beta test of the program will be run in early April.
Project Lighthouse aims to “allow more students to receive assistance, improve knowledge about professional resources on campus, and reduce the stigma associated with seeking out mental health resources” said GUSA Vice President Connor Rohan (COL ‘16) in the announcement. [Full disclosure: Rohan is a former Voice staffer.] Johnson agreed, saying that the program will “serve to continue to expand the conversation around all of our mental health and wellbeing, as well as allow students to more easily access resources.”
The program is expected to formally launch in May, around the time that Hoyas have their Spring 2016 finals. Once launched, Project Lighthouse volunteers will be available to students 7 days a week until 2 AM. “Personally, I see Project Lighthouse as a means of empowering students- both those who use the service and those that are trained as Peer Supporters,” Johnson said. “We will continue to fight for improved resources at Georgetown and are thrilled to bring this program to Georgetown,” Rohan concluded.
Currently, Project Lighthouse is looking for volunteers for the first inaugural class of Peer Supporters, and any student in their freshman, sophomore or junior year who is passionate about mental health is eligible to apply. Applications will be available online until Jan. 23.