New study highlights role of mentors in providing mental health support

McQuillin, Hagler, Werntz, & Rhodes (2021). Paraprofessional Youth Mentoring: A Framework for Integrating Youth Mentoring with Helping Institutions and Professions. American Journal of Community Psychology.


  • We propose a framework for delegating some mental health service tasks to paraprofessional mentors.
  • Appropriately scaled, paraprofessionals can reduce the burden of youth’s mental health difficulties.
  • With training, a subset of mentors could increase engagement in and deliver mental health services.
  • Training, supervision, and documentation of services will be critical to scale.
  • Paraprofessional youth mentorship requires research to establish efficacy.

From Abstract

Abstract The demand for child mental health services, including those provided by psychologists, counselors, and social workers, exceeds the supply. This trend is expected to continue or worsen unless there are substantial structural changes in how mental health services are provided. We propose a framework for paraprofessional youth mentors, defined as a subgroup of professionally supervised, non- expert volunteer or paid mentors to whom aspects of professional helping tasks are delegated. Our proposal is aligned with historical and modern solutions to scaling mental health services, and this framework could simultaneously increase the number of youth receiving evidence-based mental health services and reduce the burden on existing systems of care. The framework defines three plausible tasks for paraprofessional mentors: (1) reducing barriers to mental health service, (2) increasing engagement in services, and (3) providing direct services. The safety and effectiveness of these task-shifting efforts will hinge on competency-based training and evaluation, supervision by professionals, and documentation of services rendered, all of which the field of youth mentoring currently lacks. We describe several requisite scientific, institutional, and regulatory advances that will be necessary to realize this

✉ Jean E. Rhodes

  1. 1  Department of Psychology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA
  2. 2  Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA, USA

variant of youth mentoring for a subgroup of youth who are presenting for assistance with mental health problems.


Tennessee Voice Podcast: A Conversation with Melissa Hudson-Gant, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee CEO

We have found in the pilot that Big Brothers and Big Sisters and Little Brothers and Little Sisters who who connecting through MentorHub are staying more connected to each other. It’s actually providing some depth to the relationship. Young people are getting more comfortable communicating through texting and MentorHub has allowed this very safe space for our Littles to open up about how they’re feeling and what they are experiencing. It gives just the right amount of distance, which really adds richness to the relationship with their mentor and helps their mentor and our staff better support the young person….MentorHub app helped big time…” (Listen to the Podcast)


Nashville Tennessean: How are you? Nashville nonprofit to test a new app to let kids answer more honestly

How are you? Nashville nonprofit to test a new app to let kids answer more honestly

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee is launching MentorHub, which leaders hope will allow “bigs” and “littles” to more easily have conversations that can be tough


NBC Boston: Big Brothers Big Sisters Brings Mentoring Virtual with Big Plans for 2021

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Mass wanted to continue adapting and serving. Earlier this year they partnered with Dr. Jean Rhodes, Director of the Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring at the University of Massachusetts Boston, to work on the MentorHub. MentorHub consists of an app and integrated web dashboard that helps mentors support and track students’ use of the world’s best and scientifically-proven educational and mental health programs. With accountability and a shared dashboard with a mentor, students can really identify and work on areas that are challenges.


Boston INNO: MentorHub gives kids and their mentors digital resources for education and wellness

Abigail and Justayah (2)

A Big and Little in action. Courtesy of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts

Getting kids to close apps like TikTok and instead sign into educational and wellness ones is easier said than done. But Jean Rhodes, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston, is on a mission to change that.

Read the full article by By Jordan Frias in BostonINNO.



CityLine: Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020: Mentor Hub app

CityLine Broadcast: Mentor Hub app

MentorHub is an app helping students stay connected to remote learning. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts teamed up with clinical psychologists to design technology that’s making the connection between mentors and mentees more personal. Jean Rhodes, professor of psychology at UMass Boston, and Omari Jahi Aarons, a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts Mentor 2.0 Program, discuss the importance of the app.

Watch the broadcast.


Connecticut Mirror: The mentoring circle: Supportive relationships across generations


MENTOR (the National Mentoring Partnership) promotes mentoring and offers resources like this, for “youth in the wake of trauma,” and currently a “Mentoring Amplifies” campaign.  This Boston-based partnership includes an affiliation with UMass-Boston Professor Jean Rhodes, the Center for Evidence-based Mentoring, and the Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring.  Professor Rhodes is the author of Older and Wiser: New Ideas for Youth Mentoring in the 21st Century and Stand by Me: The Risks and Rewards of Mentoring Today’s Youth.

Read the entire article in the CT Mirror. New Chaplain brings MentorHub to Meredith College


…”One of the organization’s programs, called REACH, supports homeless families. Pardue plans to start a research-based mentorship program for REACH that she will introduce to Meredith in the spring. “Partnering with a Boston-based non-profit called Mentorhub, the program is skill-focused and utilizes apps such as Khan Academy, Intellicare, SuperBetter, and Headspace,” she said. “The REACH homeless children and youth will be matched with a graduate or undergraduate student from a number of the colleges and universities in the area, including Meredith.”


Mass Nonprofit News: App Is Helping Big Brothers Big Sisters of E. Mass. Meet Mission

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts, a Boston-based nonprofit that provides adult mentors to help youth reach their full potential, noting that “mentoring is more important than ever” during the coronavirus pandemic, recently turned to technology to better support the mentor-mentee relationships they foster.

Read the full article in MassNonprofitNews.

PRIDE Publishing Group: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee celebrates one-year virtual anniversary, new partnership with Meharry, expanded programs

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee celebrates one-year virtual anniversary, new partnership with Meharry, expanded programs

Since moving to virtual operations last year, Big Brothers Big Sisters has formed a new partnership with Meharry Medical College and expanded its programs. Read more