Well-being Elevated, a project aimed at boosting mental health and well-being for college students, has provisionally been awarded a $500,000 financial boost following its virtual presentation to the Alliance for the American Dream on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020.
The alliance’s advisory board awarded the funds after hearing pitches from five teams, from four universities, in a virtual meeting that was originally set to take place in New York City in June. This funding will help Well-being Elevated further develop its app to address mental health disparities on college campuses. The award is provisional pending legal review and execution of grant agreements.
“We are thrilled with the success of the Well-being Elevated team in earning support from Schmidt Futures to develop, implement and refine an innovative approach to preventing mental health difficulties in college students,” said University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins. “Because the majority of mental health problems emerge during the 18-24-year-old age period, it is imperative that universities develop effective proactive, rather than reactive, strategies to prevent challenges such as anxiety and depression.
“The Well-being Elevated team represents the best of the U—student-led creativity and entrepreneurship paired with internationally renowned faculty expertise and evidence-based practices,” Watkins said. “We are so proud of the work of the Well-being Elevated team, and look forward to significant achievements of this project in the months ahead.”
Mental illness is one of the most serious problems faced by society and the need for Well-being Elevated has been further evidenced by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Nations, families and individuals have had their mental health and well-being tested as never before. The treatment of mental illness accrues greater economic costs than any other illness. Those with mental health needs who currently constitute the ranks of the middle class, and those who aspire to join that group, need to overcome mental health barriers that are impediments to financial security and the realization of the American Dream.
Well-being Elevated addresses the unmet need for mental health services that can lead to emotional suffering, lost earnings and problems such as homelessness, suicide and mental illness. The project is initially focusing on college students using three approaches—an app, a website and targeted support groups—to provide preventative and scalable mental health promotion services. Well-being Elevated is currently running its pilot program at the University of Utah and conducting support groups via Zoom. The team includes Professor Ed Diener, a world-renowned expert on subjective well-being and happiness; Carol Diener, a forensic clinical psychologist; and U students Alexander Becraft, Ryan Jackson, Mitchell Wulfman, Merry Joseph, Michelle Valdes and Ayana Amaechi.
“The mentorship and support we have received from Schmidt Futures and our family at the University of Utah is truly remarkable,” said Becraft, CEO of Well-being Elevated and a U student. “It is one of the many examples of their respective commitments to making this country a better place. It has helped our team grow immensely and committed us to excellence as we look to serve populations of students in Utah and across the nation.”
Becraft said that starting the venture in the American Dream Ideas Challenge “has been exhilarating and incredibly meaningful. And getting the opportunity to strive with such an incredibly brilliant, driven and mission-oriented team, in an effort to support student mental health, has been the absolute highlight of my life.”
The alliance’s board also heard pitches from teams led by The Ohio State University, Arizona State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. With the University of Utah, these three public universities are anchor institutions in the Alliance for the American Dream, which Schmidt Futures founded in April 2018. The alliance tasked the institutions with vetting ideas aimed at raising net income for 10,000 middle-class families in their communities by 10%.
About Schmidt Futures: Schmidt Future is a philanthropic initiative, founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, that finds exceptional people and helps them do more for others together. We knit talent into networks, bet on the most promising ideas through diverse forms of competition and support, and equip people to scale through partners and modern tools. For more information, visit www.schmidtfutures.com
Learn more about the American Dream Ideas Challenge.