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Mental Health and Wellbeing at Harvard University

Mental health is the foundation for emotions, thinking, communication, learning and resilience. It is key to relationships and personal well-being, and contributes to a person’s ability to work, participate in community activities and support others. People with mental illnesses can experience distress, a loss of hope or a lack of meaning in their lives. They may not enjoy their friends or family, or have trouble keeping a job or caring for themselves. These experiences can lead to suicide or other self-harm. Getting treatment early can make a big difference. Treatment can help people recover and regain meaningful roles in their life.

We are a group of scholars and students from Harvard University who are dedicated to improving global mental health. We do this by conducting research to develop, disseminate and implement evidence-based clinical practices in partnership with front-line providers of Mental Health services worldwide.

Our research focuses on the multilevel social factors that influence mental health. This includes studying stigma and its role in social networks, structural racism, and policies on housing, drugs and criminal justice domestically and internationally. Faculty in this area also study the etiology and natural history of substance use disorders, and develop and evaluate interventions to prevent and control them.

While the causes of mental illness are often complex, a person’s genetic makeup, social and cultural learning and environment all play a part. Research shows that a person’s chances of developing a mental illness are higher if they have a close relative who has one. However, it’s important to remember that just because a person has a mental illness, it doesn’t mean they did anything wrong or were at fault.

If a person is having serious problems, they might need to go to a psychiatric hospital for more intensive treatment. This could involve psychotherapy, like talking therapy, and medication. People can also get a lot of support from their family, friends and community. They can do lots of things to improve their mental health and wellbeing, including exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep and taking antidepressants.

Some people with a mental health condition have to be in hospital because they are at risk of hurting themselves or other people. They might need to be locked up in a hospital for a short time, or for much longer, if they are seriously dangerous to themselves or someone else.

Many people who have a mental health condition don’t get the care they need. This is because they don’t ask for help or don’t know where to find it. We can all help change this by raising awareness, encouraging people to seek help and supporting those who do.


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