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“Good Friends are like stars. You don’t always see them but you know they are there.”


Dear Friends of The Friends of The Semel Institute,


During this challenging and disconcerting time, all of us at UCLA’s Friends of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior are hoping that you and your families are safe and healthy. As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the country and people are encouraged to stay home, there are many questions about how to manage anxiety and feelings of isolation during this stressful time.

As an organization that supports mental health education and research, we want to share some important tips and resources for taking care of your emotional, social, and physical well-being.​ Dr. Wendlin Slusser, the Vice-Chancellor for the Semel Institute’s Healthy Campus Initiative has some suggestions to ease the anxiety and apprehension that this time of uncertainty can evoke.

  • Social distancing does not mean social isolation. Reach out to others and offer support, empathy, reliable information and, if possible, tangible help. Check on your friends, neighbors, and family. Stay connected by phone, texting, email or by technology such as video chat or Zoom group calls. Personal relationships are crucial in maintaining perspective and elevating mood.

  • Take care of your body. Eating healthy meals, exercising, getting at least seven hours of sleep a night, and limiting your alcohol consumption can help your immune system. Even while maintaining a safe distance from other people, you can still go outside! Regular exercise can reduce anxiety. Just be sure to protect yourself and others by following these guidelines for managing anxiety and stress.

  • Learn and share. Learn best practices from trusted resources on how to limit your exposure to, and the spread of, COVID-19, and share that information with others. The WHO website details actions for health care workers, team leaders, caretakers of children, older adults and people in isolation. The CDC website lists common warning signs of emotional stress responses (including problems with sleep and concentration, and increased drug or alcohol use) and some ideas for how to cope. Other resources include:

  • Do things that give you purpose and meaning. Helping others is a gift, and it is good for your own well-being. Many in our community are more vulnerable to the impact of the novel coronavirus. You can help others by offering reassurance and emotional support, for instance.

  • Take care of your mind. Constant searching, scrolling or consumption of coronavirus news will only make us feel more afraid and powerless. Take breaks from media coverage. For many of us, maintaining routines will help keep us positive, balanced and mentally well.

  • Increase your feel-good activities. Whether it’s mindfulness, talking to your friends and family members, going for walks, taking part in sports, journaling, playing with your pet, or watching Netflix, now is the time to increase positive experiences in your daily schedule. For a quick stress reliever, UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center offers free guided meditations in English and Spanish.

  • Treat everyone with dignity and respect. Let’s work together to address xenophobic sentiments that perpetuate stigma toward people from the countries most affected by COVID-19. Members of our community are experiencing additional fear right now because of the increased suspicion and racism from others who wrongly attach COVID-19 to an ethnicity or nationality. Language like COVID-19 “victims” or “the diseased” is stigmatizing and harmful. Instead, we can say “people who are being treated for or recovering from COVID-19.”

  • Pay attention to how you’re feeling. Fear, worry and dread are normal reactions during this unprecedented time. People who have pre-existing mental health concerns are more vulnerable and face a higher risk of worsening mental health as the virus spreads. If you have a history of mental health concerns, form a plan such as how to access health workers, counselors and prescriptions.

Due to the suspension of all nonessential events of any size through the end of UCLA’s spring quarter, all remaining Open Mind programs and #WOW The Wonder of Women Summit have been postponed. Please visit our website, www.friendsofthesemelinstitute.org to watch for announcements of rescheduled dates for Caroline Welch’s The Gift of Presence: A Mindfulness Guide for Women , #WOW, and Dr. Gary Small’s The Small Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease. In the meantime, we invite you to visit our website to catch up on videos from past Open Mind events you may have missed. www.friendsofthesemelinstitute.org/open-mind-videos.


Looking to the future, we are excited to share our fall schedule to date:

  • September 15: The Power of Showing Up: How Parental Presence Shapes Who our Kids Become and How Their Brains Get Wired with Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.

  • October 6: Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief, by David Kessler, co-author of On Grief and Grieving and You Can Heal Your Heart.

  • October 16: Orchestrating Change – A heartwarming and powerful documentary film that tells the inspiring story of the Me2/ Orchestra, the only orchestra in the world for people living with mental illness. The founders of the Me2/ Orchestra, Maestro Ronald Braunstein and Orchestra Director, Caroline Whiddon will join Mark Jude Tramo, M.D. Ph.d. in discussion following the screening. Dr. Tramo is the Director of the Institute for Music and Brain Science, Co-Director of University of California Multi-Campus Music Research Initiative, and Associate Clinical Professor of Neurology and Adjunct Ethnomusicology Professor at UCLA

We are grateful for your generosity and continued partnership. You are the beacons of support for the health and well-being of our entire community, and community is at the heart of all our efforts. We know that each and every one of us will make a difference as we uplift one another. Together, we will rise and come out stronger, with a resolve to fulfill our mission to improve the lives of people with mental illness.