Home Posts tagged Tiffany Rufino
Class of 2024

Youth Mental Health Coalition Manager, Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts: Age 39

Tiffany RufinoIt’s called “I Am More Than My Mood.”

That public awareness campaign, seen on billboards, buses, and digital ads since its unveiling in early 2023, aims to destigmatize the subject of mental health and empower young people to talk about it — and, hopefully, take steps toward self-care.

It’s just one element of Tiffany Rufino’s impactful work as Youth Mental Health Coalition manager at the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts.

“The coalition is all about preventive methods for youth mental health, how we convene and bring together different professionals and residents across different sectors: behavioral-health professionals, private clinicians, and residents who are interested in youth mental health and want to impact change in their communities,” she explained.

Many ideas in the campaign came a youth advisory board called Beat the Odds, Forget the Statistics.

“They get together weekly and talk about topics around mental health and work to bring information to the community and build awareness,” Rufino explained. “They’re comfortable talking about mental health and encourage their peers to do the same.”

She’s learned that today’s teens are a little more open to talking about mental health than, say, their parents.

“It really becomes an opportunity to share some challenges they’re going through and recognize that other young people are experiencing the same,” she went on. “With the coalition, we’re focusing on parents and guardians, getting them up to speed on where their youth are and helping them realize that talking about stress doesn’t make you weak or inferior in any way; it’s just the reality of life.”

Rufino has worked in community and youth development for a long time, building relationships with local schools and colleges with Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts and addressing root causes of poor reading levels in schools with Parent Villages, to name two previous roles.

“I really have a passion for creating opportunities for young people, especially my community in Springfield, and making sure they have opportunities and pathways for success,” she said, adding that, through the coalition she has assembled at the Public Health Institute, she’s able to address issues ranging from stress, anxiety, and depression to the ways intergenerational trauma impacts parenting today.

“The youth are so critical because they can impact change now and in the future,” Rufino said. “It’s a really great feeling to be able to spearhead this work and see tangible results coming from young people, and even parents and guardians. It gives me goosebumps every time.”

—Joseph Bednar