Hillel International Announces New Initiative to Meet Growing Need for Mental Health Support on Campus
HillelWell to provide training and resources for campus professionals and impact the lives of thousands of students, supported by $1 million gift
WASHINGTON – Continuing its efforts to adapt to the changing needs of the students it serves, Hillel International, the world’s largest Jewish student organization, announced today the launch of 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 freshmen will report a mental health disorder, and one 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.
“I am honored to support Hillel International as it seeks to address mental health and wellness for a generation that is more in need than ever of this type of support,” said Stephen J. Cloobeck, founder of Diamond Resorts International, Inc. “Through my own struggles with dyslexia, I know firsthand how isolating and difficult it can be as a young person dealing with something others might not understand. I know that HillelWell will make an incredible difference to the students and the wider Jewish community.”
HillelWell will incorporate longstanding practices including “unplugging” for Shabbat, the intentionality of Jewish tradition, mindfulness of prayer and meditation, all while providing highly relevant and modern training for professionals and equipping the next generation of Jewish leaders with the resources they need to live in a complicated and demanding world.
“Students have told us what they need from Hillel and we are listening,” said Rabbi Hirsch. “With the support of Stephen J. Cloobeck, HillelWell will allow us to respond to the changing needs of our students and professionals and promote proactive steps toward wellness on campus.”
About Hillel International
Founded in 1923, Hillel has been enriching the lives of Jewish students for more than 90 years. Today, Hillel International is a global organization that welcomes students of all backgrounds and fosters an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel. Hillel is dedicated to enriching the lives of Jewish students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world. As the largest Jewish student organization in the world, Hillel builds connections with emerging adults at more than 550 colleges and universities, and inspires them to direct their own path. During their formative college years, students are challenged to explore, experience, and create vibrant Jewish lives.