Hillel International Announces New Initiative to Meet Growing Need for Mental Health Support on Campus

Hillel International has launched HillelWell as part of the Hillel U professional development program during the 2018-2019 school year.

With initial support through a $1 million gift from Stephen J. Cloobeck, founder of Diamond Resorts International, Inc., HillelWell will provide resources and training to campus professionals to better prepare them to serve the student body (regardless of religious affiliation) on their campuses with increasing rates of depression, anxiety and other mental health and wellness concerns.

“Our goal is to create an integrated Jewish approach to mental health, focused on giving young people the knowledge and skills to balance their spiritual, physical, intellectual, relational and emotional wellbeing,” said Rabbi Sherre Hirsch, senior rabbinic scholar for Hillel International, who is overseeing HillelWell. “This approach seeks not only to normalize mental health and wellness and remove its current stigmas, but also to promote it as a way to enrich the Jewish people and the world.”

This issue is not new to Hillel. In recent years, Hillel professionals on campus have identified stress and anxiety as well as mental health and wellness among their greatest concerns for Jewish and non-Jewish college students, and one of the highest priorities for skill development and programmatic resources. Research shows that one in three college freshmenwill report a mental health disorder, and 1 in 12 college students will make a suicide plan. Researchers also believe even these statistics underrepresent the issue. Barriers to effective prevention and treatment include lack of campus resources, stigma and fear – causing many young adults to suffer in isolation.

HillelWell will address the mental health and wellness crisis on campus in tangible ways, including:

  • The launch of a HillelWell lab with five to seven campus participants that will each pilot an innovative, scalable wellness initiative.
  • Providing in person and online training for at least 400 Hillel professionals during the 2018-2019 school year.
  • Collaboration with Hillel International’s student cabinet to ensure HillelWell is integrated into all programming and addressing the needs of students.
  • Development of resource guides for campus professionals to create their own wellness strategies, including through deep campus partnerships that support the whole student.