In collaboration with Jewish Family Services, KU Hillel is expanding their current services to meet the growing need for mental health support to the students at KU. The goal is to be on the frontlines of preventative care, providing students with ample wellness resources, which includes counseling services provided through Jewish Family Services.
“KU Hillel is excited to collaborate with Jewish Family Services of Greater Kansas City in order to promote and foster good mental health and healthy habits for our students,” said KU Hillel Board Chair Meg Adler.
KU Hillel’s mission is to connect Jewish students to each other and to their Judaism, to inspire and equip the next generation of Jewish leaders and to build a thriving Jewish community on campus. In order to build a thriving and close-knit Jewish community, KU Hillel must recognize and address that mental health is a significant issue on college campuses across the nation; with anxiety and depression ranking among the leading issues hindering college students.
According to research published by the American Psychological Association, more than one-third of first year university students will report symptoms consistent with a diagnosable 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, which causes many young adults to suffer in isolation.
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.
“Our goal is to take an integrated, proactive and Jewish approach to wellness — helping students to develop the tools, practices and insights of emotional wellbeing, empowerment, and resilience; of spiritual wholeness; physical, relational and intellectual health and communities of support in which there is no sense of stigma about sharing what is really going on with them,” said KU Hillel’s Senior Jewish Education Rabbi Neal Schuster. “We are in a position to help more of the students who need us and to positively change the way that this generation approaches mental health.”
Executive Director Suzy Sostrin explained that over the last few years, KU Hillel has seen an increase in students expressing anxiety, depression, feeling overwhelmed and harming themselves.
“Students are facing the uneasiness of transitioning into a new environment away from the comfort of their parents’ homes, adapting to new schedules, workloads, roommate issues, relationships and, for many, financial concerns,” she said. “In addition to the daily stresses of college life, many students deal with significant issues such as alcohol and other substance abuse, eating disorders and loss of parents or grandparents.”
Sostrin added KU Hillel is thankful for its partnership with Jewish Family Services, and grateful to Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City and Menorah Heritage Foundation, who are the major funders of this initiative.
“Jewish Federation strongly supports providing therapy, counseling and mental health services to those in need, and deeply believes in supporting collaborations among Jewish organizations to enhance the services provided in Jewish communities. Training those working with Jewish young adults on how to respond and support this population is vital, life-changing work,” said Jewish Federation President & CEO.
Dr. John Goldberg, president of Menorah Heritage Foundation, also voiced “enthusiastic support” of the partnership between KU Hillel and Jewish Family Services.”
“Universities face increased challenges in addressing the mental health needs of students. They are experiencing higher levels of anxiety and depression than their predecessors and MHF views this mental health initiative as an important step. KU Hillel and JFS will provide an important and trusted resource for Jewish students at KU,” he said.
A study done in the Spring of 2018 by the American College Health Association found 63.4% of college students felt overwhelming anxiety, 87.4% felt overwhelmed by all they had to do and 68.7% felt very sad. The study also found that from 2009-2010 to 2014-2015, college and university counseling center utilization grew five times faster than U.S. Institutional enrollment growth.
Unfortunately, the number of students who need counseling far exceeds the resources of most universities around the country which is resulting in a substantial unmet need for mental health treatment among college students.
Jewish Family Services will provide a designated therapist who specializes in stress management and Generation Z. JFS will also help KU Hillel to think of innovative ways to reduce the stigma and increase access to tools that may help students better manage stress. Rabbi Schuster will work in tandem with KU Hillel’s program professionals and JFS to create an environment that addresses these growing mental health and wellness challenges, through counseling and wellness programming.
“We are delighted to partner with KU Hillel to meet growing needs for student mental health services. Providing outpatient counseling and managing school-based mental health initiatives has been a core focus for us in the Kansas City area. We are pleased for the opportunity to build on this experience and extend our services to Jewish students on campus,” said JFS’ Executive Director & CEO Don Goldman.