The Ruderman Family Foundation Fellowship for Campus Behavioral Health will train faculty and increase access to mental health support.
NEWTON, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#CollegeMentalHealthInitiative–William James College (WJC), a leader in behavioral health workforce development and the Ruderman Family Foundation, an internationally recognized organization that works to end the stigma associated with mental health, have today announced a new partnership to create the Ruderman Family Foundation Fellowship for Campus Behavioral Health — an initiative that equips faculty and staff with knowledge, skills, and compassion to assist students facing mental health challenges encountered on their academic journey.
In this new and transformative program, supported by a $250,000 grant from the Foundation, “Ruderman Fellows” at WJC will acquire valuable knowledge and insights through intensive, specialized training designed to address the crucial role that college faculty members play in supporting student mental health and meeting the distinct learning needs within their classrooms.
The Fellowship is committed to creating an academic environment that values mental wellness, reduces stigma, and ensures no student faces mental health challenges alone. Creating this environment begins with training faculty on how to incorporate strategies to create a supportive environment in their classrooms where students not only learn, but also foster student connection and skills to manage their feelings effectively. Through a multi-day intensive training in the early summer, Ruderman Fellows will learn about: (a) understanding and addressing mental health challenges in college students, (b) incorporating social-emotional learning strategies in their classrooms to help students develop resilience, manage emotions, and form positive relationships to improve overall mental health, (c) setting healthy and compassionate boundaries as an educator, (d) breaking down silos and fostering a collaborative network to strengthen support for students, and (e ) developing and maintaining self-care strategies for educators. Post-training, Ruderman Fellows will lead Faculty Learning Communities at their institutions, facilitating small group learning on topics related to student mental health and faculty wellness. Ongoing support includes individual consultations, virtual meetings with fellow colleagues, access to a mental health resource library, and a monthly newsletter.
The program is part of the College Mental Health Initiative led by WJC’s Center for Behavioral Health, Equity, and Leadership in Schools (BHELS), which provides school districts, leaders, and educators with the skills, resources, and support to build healthy schools, foster sustainable change, and create and implement systemic transformation. BHELS is a recognized leader in psychology/student mental health, social and emotional learning, DEI/antiracist teaching practices, adult learning, and leadership.
In December 2021, the U.S. Surgeon General, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Hospital Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry declared a mental health emergency among our youth.
“With approximately 40% of young people between the ages of 17 and 24 years enrolled in higher education, colleges can help address this behavioral health crisis,” said William James College President Nicholas Covino. “Many experts have cited poor mental health as one of the largest drivers of student attrition within higher education. This timely program will provide our Fellows with the tools they need to reverse this trend.”
According to a 2021 survey on “The Role of Faculty in Student Mental Health,” nearly 80% of higher educational faculty reported having dealt with student mental health issues in the past year but felt ill-equipped to address these issues. Faculty respondents called for more training in student mental health, and many felt that such training should be mandatory.
The high demand for accessible mental health resources has strained counseling centers at a time when college campuses are reporting increasing incidents of depression, anxiety, and suicide. Faculty members represent the largest potential resource in the effort to tackle the behavioral health crisis via population-based models of intervention.
“The Ruderman Family Foundation works tirelessly to eliminate the stigma often associated with mental health diagnoses and treatment,” said Sharon Shapiro, Ruderman Family Foundation Community Liaison and Trustee. “We believe this innovative new program will help increase awareness and the availability of mental health support on college campuses across Massachusetts and throughout the U.S. at a time when mental health-related challenges that students are grappling with are continually rising.”
The Ruderman Family Foundation is at the forefront in promoting mental health resources and programs in the high school and higher education communities. In Massachusetts alone, the Foundation has partnered with the Kevin Love Fund, bringing a free mental health curriculum to high school students throughout the State; brought vital mental health services to public high schools across Massachusetts in collaboration with the Bridge for Resilient Youth in Transition (BRYT) program; and worked with Boston University to release a first-of-its-kind set of manuals to establish best practices for college campus leave-of-absence policies.
As part of the grant, Mēgan Kersting, PsyD, a graduate of WJC’s Clinical Psychology doctoral program, has been recruited to develop and guide the program. A clinical psychologist and director of Young Adult and College Behavioral Health initiatives at WJC, Dr. Kersting’s background includes working in college mental health counseling centers across the state. Most recently, she served for over a decade as the Director of the Center for Counseling and Personal Growth at Clark University. During her tenure there, she developed and implemented innovative programs designed to enhance students’ access to high-quality mental health care, institute comprehensive university-wide community education initiatives, cultivate student groups dedicated to promoting mental health awareness and advocacy, and establish a training program tailored for graduate psychology interns.
About William James College
Founded in 1974, William James College is an independent, non-profit institution and a leader in educating the next generation of mental health professionals to support the growing and diverse needs of the mental health workforce. Integrating field work with academics, the College prepares students for careers as organizational leaders and behavioral health professionals who are committed to helping the underserved, multicultural populations, children and families, and veterans. William James College alumni can be found making an impact in a variety of settings, including schools, the courts, clinical care facilities, hospitals, the community, and the workplace. To learn more about the College, please visit williamjames.edu.
About the Ruderman Family Foundation
The Ruderman Family Foundation is an internationally recognized organization that works to end the stigma associated with mental health. The Foundation does this by identifying gaps in mental health resources and programs within the high school and higher education communities as well as by organizing other local and national programming and initiatives that raise greater awareness around the stigma.
The Ruderman Family Foundation believes that inclusion and understanding of all people is essential to a fair and flourishing community and imposes these values within its leadership and funding. For more information, please visit www.rudermanfoundation.org