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Mental health hero earns royal recognition

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Brunel’s former head of counselling Dr Ruth Caleb today picks up an MBE for her work championing mental health and wellbeing in UK higher education.

Dr Caleb, 65, started speaking out on student mental health decades before it became a national issue.

Childline, the free children’s helpline pioneered by TV’s Esther Rantzen in 1986, is among several settings where Dr Caleb offered counselling and psychotherapy. She also helped people with HIV and Aids before joining Brunel about 18 years ago.

“Ruth has helped hundreds of students and staff access help,” said Brunel student counsellor Peter Eldrid.

“She has helped develop the careers of many counsellors, including myself,” added Peter, who has worked with Dr Caleb since 1989, when they were at Childline. “And as secretary to the UK working group for mental wellbeing in Higher Education, Ruth enhanced Brunel’s reputation as a university that takes mental health seriously. She led the way to help other University counselling services develop their mental health strategies to reach and support more students.

“She richly deserves this award.”

Dr Caleb, who left Brunel last year Chairs the Mental Wellbeing in Higher Education Working Group backed by Universities UK (UUK). And she had a leading role producing UUK’s Student Mental Wellbeing in High Education: Good Practice Guide. She’s also made many media appearances highlighting student mental wellbeing including on BBC1’s Breakfast programme, BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat and BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.  

“Ruth was always developing the Brunel counselling service to provide a better and more comprehensive service for our students,” said Lesley O’Keeffe, Deputy Director of Academic and Student Services.

“There are many students that benefitted directly from her work in relation to their studies, and in their lives more generally.”