Student philanthropist champions mental wellness
Founded in 1978, the Children’s Brain Diseases Foundation was originally created to raise money to fight Batten disease, a mysterious brain condition. Today, the foundation is managed by three family members, including Dean Rider, II, a gastroenterologist practicing in San Francisco, and Dean Rider, III, a political science major at SMU and member of the class of 2025. As the youngest member of the board, Dean Rider, III has helped push the foundation in new directions.
“Since I took my seat on the board in November 2020, I’ve tried to broaden our foundation’s vision,” he said. “I’m really focusing on mental health. I especially noticed it when I saw how applying for college and the COVID-19 pandemic were particularly burdensome on people my age. I want to make sure people have the appropriate resources to deal with this problem.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, up to 44% of college students report having symptoms of depression and anxiety. Studies show that suicide is the second leading cause of death among young adults. When a string of teen suicides hit the Riders’ neighborhood during the pandemic, the news deeply impacted Dean Rider, III.
“I was shocked. I didn’t know these people personally, but it really got me thinking about what we can do to provide resources so people realize they’re not alone and there’s help available.”
Thanks to Dean Rider, III’s passionate advocacy for mental health, the Children’s Brain Diseases Foundation donated $50,000 to the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center at SMU in 2021 to help students who are underinsured or without insurance access off-campus treatments after they use up their eight free on-campus counseling sessions.