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New Mental Health Services Director Brings Experience, Passion to Mississippi College Post

Jenny Crutchfield, MC's new director of mental health services, would like all students to consider her office a resource for whatever issues they may find themselves confronting.
Jenny Crutchfield, MC's new director of mental health services, would like all students to consider her office a resource for whatever issues they may find themselves confronting.

Jenny Crutchfield has enjoyed helping others and serving as a resource for people when they are most in need.

The personable Mississippi College graduate found her calling in the field of behavioral science and gets her greatest satisfaction from counseling college students.

“I’ve always been drawn to want to help those who are struggling,” said Crutchfield, who earned her B.S. in psychology at MC before obtaining her M.S. in community counseling from Mississippi State University. “Knowing how hard life can be, with all its ups and downs, I want to be a resource for college students. That’s where my heart is.

“There’s so much transition in their lives. They’re leaving home for the first time, and there’s a lot of uncertainty. It’s hard to make decisions at 18 that can impact the rest of your life. Being able to help guide them through this time in their lives is a privilege I don’t take lightly.”

Crutchfield is bringing more than 25 years of behavioral health experience to MC as the Christian University’s new director of mental health services. She’s not the only change in the department: to best serve the needs of students, the former Office of Counseling and Disability Services has been divided into two separate entities: the Office of Mental Health Services, which Crutchfield manages, and the Office of Accessibility Services, which is housed in the basement of Nelson Hall.

Dr. James Strickland, associate professor of counseling at MC who served as interim director of counseling and disability services, said Crutchfield brings a wealth of experience to her new role.

“One of the things that I tried to stress throughout my time as interim director is that our students come first, and we strived to treat them with respect and care,” Strickland said. “Jenny holds much of the same belief. She deeply cares for her students and wants to ensure that they are treated with the utmost respect.

“She has served in a number of roles as a counselor throughout the state of Mississippi. She has worked in outpatient settings, inpatient settings, and at the college level. All of these roles have shaped her to best meet our students’ needs.”

Crutchfield’s passion for behavioral health is deeply rooted in personal tragedy. At 18 – the age when most students are transitioning to life in college – she lost her father, a man of profound influence in her life.

“That was a hard time for me,” she said. “I needed to process that and deal with that, and I didn’t for a long time. Knowing there are others who are struggling and hurting but don’t know how to deal with loss resonates with me.

“I’ve always been fascinated by psychology and all aspects of how our minds work – our behavior and why we do what we do. When I was a student at MC, I learned that we don’t always make a connection between our emotions and our behavior. As I navigated through this, it steered me towards the counseling realm.”

While pursuing her master’s degree from MSU, she began working full-time as a case manager and, later, a children’s therapist at Community Counseling Services in Ackerman. Upon receiving her M.S., she joined Charter Behavioral Health Systems in Jackson as an intake counselor and became an intake manager.

After brief stints as community relations coordinator for Central Mississippi Medical Center Behavioral Health Services in Jackson and as a clinical counselor for Cape Fear Valley Health Systems-Behavioral Health Services in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Crutchfield became outreach coordinator for St. Dominic Hospital Behavioral Health Services in Jackson.

She was serving as executive director of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence of Central Mississippi in Ridgeland when Crutchfield was given the opportunity to positively impact the lives of students. She joined Hinds Community College as an academic and career technical counselor. Within four years, Crutchfield had become district LPC of mental health services and started the counseling office at Hinds, a model for what she and her staff plan to construct at Mississippi College.

“Hinds did not have a mental health services office on campus when I started there, so I was tasked with figuring out what their students’ needs were and providing that resource to them,” Crutchfield said. “At MC we will focus on educating, advocating, and counseling students. That’s our overall mission, which is why we are changing our name (to the Office of Mental Health Services).

“It’s important because we need to work on breaking the stigma of mental health. We all have mental health, whether it’s good or bad. We need to educate the community on the importance of taking care of it, because your mental health can affect every part of your life.”

She said it’s not enough to help students recognize when they’re encountering stress at school.

“They need to understand what’s going on in their lives, what’s behind their stress, and what they can do to address it,” she said. “They may feel like they have to go and go until they just can’t go any longer. In reality, they need to figure out how to deal with stress so they can alleviate it.”

Crutchfield understands that having a counseling center at a university brings a number of unique opportunities, but she wants all students to consider her office a resource for whatever issues they may find themselves confronting.

“No matter where they come from, what life path they’re on, counseling is a safe place for them to voice what they need without feeling judged,” she said. “The staff and I will have our own personal beliefs, but we do not bring them into the counseling sessions. That is ethically against our values. We uphold the highest professional standards, and we always meet students where they are.”

The office name change – “call it a rebranding,” Crutchfield said – reflects a new direction for counseling services at MC. Increased awareness and heightened visibility among MC students is the first goal.

“Mental Health Services needs to be very much a part of this campus,” she said. “Our office needs to be involved in things. Students need to see us to help them become more comfortable with us. We want to let them know we’re approachable and just like them. I’m a counselor, but I’ve been to counseling, and that’s ok.

“People knew me on all the campuses at Hinds because I provided mental health awareness and educational events on all the campuses and was an active member of other activities. That was important, because this allowed them to get to know me while breaking down mental health barriers. They realized I’m just like them – I’m trying to figure this life out like everybody else.”

That openness will have a positive impact on MC students, Strickland said.

“I believe Jenny’s outreach events throughout the year will be a huge asset for our campus,” he said. “I am excited to see all that comes from the center during the upcoming year. I think there will be a lot of life in the center this year, and I am excited to see how the center works to best serve our students.”

Crutchfield said she plans to provide individual and group counseling sessions for students in the fall, and stressed that all services are free and completely confidential.

“That means we are not going to tell anybody – not your coach, not your instructors, not your roommate, not your friends, not anybody,” she said. “I’m a licensed professional counselor, and most of our staff are provisional licensed professional counselors. We’re all board-certified telemental health counselors, so we can do counseling online for those who prefer. Our services are for the students on campus and those completely online as well.”

Crutchfield and her family – son Hunter, 19, a student at Hinds; daughter, Anna Carson, 17, a student at Clinton High School; and son Hudson, 14, a student at Sumner Hill Junior High School in Clinton – attend Pinelake Church. Crutchfield said she is grateful for the opportunity to return to the Clinton campus and is honored to serve her alma mater.

“I’m a good listener. I like to listen to people and help them on the path that they’re on and hopefully guide them in the right direction to a healthier, more balanced mental health,” she said. “I loved MC when I was a student. It provided a great education, but it was also a lot of fun navigating this new phase of life while making friends that I’ve kept for a lifetime.

“It’s great to be back here, and it feels like home.”

For more information about mental health services at Mississippi College, click here.