The Office of Human Resources

Spotlight on Well-being: Mental Health

May is Mental Health Awareness MonthMental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act, and helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.

Mental illness. Over the course of one's lifetime, most people will experience mental health challenges, involving changes to thinking, mood, and behavior. Mental illnesses are disorders, ranging from mild to severe, that affect a person’s thinking, mood, and/or behavior. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one-in-five adults live with a mental illness. Many factors contribute to mental health conditions, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
  • Family history of mental health problem

A few of the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses include depression, anxiety, panic attacks or panic disorder, and substance use disorder. 

Depression. Depression is a mental health condition that causes you to feel sad, lose interest in activities that you used to enjoy, withdraw from others, and have little energy. It's different from normal feelings of sadness, grief, or low energy. Depression can also cause people to feel hopeless about the future and to even think about suicide. It is not a character flaw, and it does not mean that you are a bad or weak person.
For more information about seeking care and talking to your doctor, click here.

Anxiety. Feeling worried or nervous is a normal part of daily life. Everyone frets or feels anxious from time to time. Mild to moderate anxiety can help you focus your attention, energy, and motivation. If anxiety is severe, you may feel helpless, confused, or very worried. But your feelings may be out of balance with how serious or likely the feared event might be. Find out more here.

Panic attacks and panic disorder. A panic attack is a sudden, intense fear or anxiety. It may make you short of breath or dizzy or make your heart pound. You may feel out of control. Some people believe that they're having a heart attack or are about to die. An attack usually lasts from 5 to 20 minutes. But it may last longer, up to a few hours. Find more here.

Substance Use Disorders. Substance use disorder (SUD) is a treatable mental disorder that affects a person's brain and behavior, leading to their inability to control their use of substances like legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications. Symptoms of SUD may include behavioral changes, such as:

  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school
  • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities)
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts

If you have concerns about your substance use, or the substance use of someone you know learn more and get support in how to start the conversation

Tips for Living Well with a Mental Health Condition. With early and consistent treatment—often a combination of medication and psychotherapy—it is possible to manage mental illness, overcome challenges, and lead a meaningful, productive life. Today, there are new tools, evidence-based treatments, and social support systems that help people feel better and pursue their goals. Some of these tips, tools and strategies include:

  • Stick to a treatment plan. Even if you feel better, don’t stop going to therapy or taking medication without a doctor’s guidance. Work with a doctor to safely adjust doses or medication if needed to continue a treatment plan.
  • Keep your primary care physician updated. Primary care physicians are an important part of long-term management, even if you also see a psychiatrist.
  • Learn about the condition. Being educated can help you stick to your treatment plan. Education can also help your loved ones be more supportive and compassionate.
  • Practice good self-care. Control stress with activities such as meditation or tai-chi; eat healthy and exercise; and get enough sleep.
  • Reach out to family and friends. Maintaining relationships with others is important. In times of crisis or rough spells, reach out to them for support and help.
  • Develop coping skills. Establishing healthy coping skills can help people deal with stress easier.
  • Get enough sleep. Good sleep improves your brain performance, mood and overall health. Consistently poor sleep is associated with anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

Tips for Engaging in Respectful Conversations Around Mental Health. SAMHSA has developed a conversation guide to support a friend or loved one by providing them with access to services for mental health or substance use. This guide helps start conversations respectfully and helps guide the friend or loved one to resources that could help.

Additional Resources for Conversations:

Need Help?

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call 781-736-3333 (On campus) or 911 (Off campus)

  • Chat or call and text 988, if you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis. Help is ALWAYS available.
  • Learn how to get support for mental health, drug, and alcohol issues.
  • Visit or call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357) for help locating treatment facilities or providers.
  • Connect with our Employee Assistance Program: KGA. KGA is Brandeis' Employee Assistance Program, and your guide to emotional well-being. This service is provided by Brandeis University and is available to you and your adult household members. This is a free and confidential program. Call 1-800-648-9557 or visit the website. Log-in password: brandeis
  • Support at Brandeis.