Skip to main content


Assistant Professor


UNC Hospitals – Chapel Hill

Education and Training:

B.S., Economics, University of Pennsylvania
M.D., Harvard University
Ed.M., Prevention Science and Practice, Harvard University
Residency, Psychiatry, UNC-Chapel Hill
Fellowship, Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, UNC-Chapel Hill

Summary Statement:

Dr. Cruz is interested in improving the mental health of children and adolescents globally in resource-limited settings by meeting them where they are – every day in their schools. Her independent research program has focuses on the creation, piloting, testing, and scaling of a task-shifting model of mental health care for school-aged children in Darjeeling, in the Indian Eastern Himalayas, an environment reflective of poorly resourced environments worldwide. In this model, the task of children’s mental health care shifts to classroom teachers, resulting in an emerging form of care she and her team have coined “education as mental health therapy”.1,2

An ongoing, externally funded feasibility trial has demonstrated promising results. She is currently conducting a stepped wedge cluster randomized trial to evaluate its ability to improve the mental health of children with mental health struggles. Dr. Cruz is also discussing partnerships with Indian philanthropic groups to scale the intervention, including potentially to the schools of a city of 5 million in central India. She is additionally expanding the teacher-led task-shifting system of mental health care to adolescents.

Dr. Cruz is also pursuing research locally focused child and adolescent suicide prevention. With clinical expertise in inpatient child and adolescent psychiatry, she is collaborating with faculty from various schools within UNC, such as the School of Education, on projects ranging from optimizing adolescent school reintegration post hospital discharge for suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs) to developing Virtual Reality as a novel therapeutic supplement to inpatient care to improve school reintegration for adolescents hospitalized for STB.

1 Christina M. Cruz , Molly M. Lamb , Karen Hampanda , Priscilla Giri , Matthew Campbell , Bijita Chowdhury , Aileen A. Giardina , Bradley N. Gaynes & Michael Matergia (2021) Teacher Nomination of School-aged Children for Mental Health Services in a Low and Middle Income Country, Global Health Action, 14:1, 1861921, DOI: 10.1080/16549716.2020.1861921

2 Christina M. Cruz , Molly M. Lamb , Priscilla Giri , Juliana Vanderburg , Peter Ferrarone , Surekha Bhattarai , Aileen A. Giardina , Karen Hampanda , Bradley N. Gaynes & Michael Matergia (2021) Perceptions, Attitudes, and Knowledge of Teachers Serving as Mental Health Lay Counselors in a Low and Middle Income Country: A Mixed Methods Pragmatic Pilot Study, International Journal of Mental Health Systems, in press.

Faculty website:


Christina Cruz