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Dear Friends of The Friends of the Semel Institute,

We hope that you and your families are all safe and in good physical and mental health. Unfortunately, for the time being we have had to cancel the events planned for our Open Mind community lecture and film series that presents programs about mental health issues. However, to fill the gap and help us all face the current health crisis, we have curated some inspiring and informative writings by some of the thought leaders in science and culture who have participated in past Open Mind programs. Each piece shares a unique perspective, strategy, or insight to help us navigate through this crisis and the mental health challenges that it can present. It is our hope that these wise words of wisdom will inspire us all to emerge from these difficult times as the title of Rabbi Steve Leder,s book says, More Beautiful than Before.


We would like to introduce the new Interim Director of the Semel Institute, Alex Young, M.D., M.S.H.S.

Greetings from the Semel Institute! At the present time, we have all been affected by the COVID pandemic, professionally and personally. Many have made sacrifices, and unfortunately, this is likely to be with us for some time. At Semel, we have been working hard to ensure that we can continue our clinical services, research, and education in this difficult context, while ensuring the safety of our staff.

After more than 20 years of service, Dr. Peter Whybrow has stepped down as Director of the Semel Institute. He was a remarkable and effective leader, overseeing impressive growth and the development of nationally leading research and education. As of March 1, I became the Interim Director of the Semel Institute and Interim Chair of the Department of Psychiatry. Over the past month, I have been spending time meeting the remarkably talented and productive people we have here, and learning about their work. I had an opportunity to attend a meeting of the Friends of Semel board. I have been very impressed by the Friend’s work and dedication, including the Open Mind program and Friends Scholars Research program. Early in my career, I was fortunate to receive a similar scholar award that was critical to supporting my development, and allowing me to launch my career. I come to my current role as a psychiatrist, clinician and researcher with a career-long commitment to improving treatments and services for people with mental illness. Over the years, I have led numerous research projects to improve the care of people with mental illness, and have worked with families and communities to support innovations in information, care, and implementation of services. I have seen too many patients and families whose lives have been seriously negatively affected by mental illness. We need more effective treatments, better deployment of effective treatments, and better information about mental illness and addiction. While there has been some improvement in the public’s understanding of these problems, there is a lot more work to do.

I look forward to getting to know the Friends of Semel, and to working together to advance its mission, despite the current challenges.




Please enjoy these inspiring writings from Andrew Solomon, Ph.D.; Lori Gottlieb; Alex Korb, Ph.D.; Gail Saltz, M.D.; Val Kondos Field; Rabbi Steve Leder; Paul Rosenberg, M.D.; Dan Seigel, M.D.; Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.; Jared Diamond, Ph.D.; Caroline Welch, J.D.; and Robert Bilder, Ph.D.

ANDREW SOLOMON, National Book award winning author of The Noonday Demons and Far From the Tree
Staying Connected Amidst Social Isolation- the importance of prioritizing mental health while in medically mandated social isolation.
And Andrew Solomon’s inspiring TED TALK 
How the worst moments in our lives make us who we are

LORI GOTTLIEBThe New York Times best-selling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone and Atlantic columnist Are you grieving the losses of coronavirus? In addition to the tragic losses of life and health and jobs, we are grieving the losses of weddings, sports, family holiday celebrations, or getting a haircut or manicure! Author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone and Atlantic columnist, Lori Gottlieb shares her thoughts.

GAIL SALTZ, MD, Psychiatrist, columnist and best-selling author of The Power ofDifferent
Looking for ideas to keep things interesting at home? Staying engaged with fun, mentally stimulating activities isn’t just about passing the time but drawing together as a family during a difficult time. Why Families Should Also Prioritize Fun During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

VAL KONDOS FIELDS - UCLA Women’s gymnastics coach and author of Life is Short. Don’t Wait to Dance"Life threw us all into a new chapter unwillingly. It’s up to each of us to now write how that chapter will play out.”

Using Quarantine

Rabbi Steve Leder - Senior Rabbi Wilshire Boulevard Temple and author of More Beautiful Than Before: How Suffering Transforms Us“Where there’s shadow, there’s light: LA Rabbi helps us get through coronavirus fears”

Kenneth Paul Rosenberg, M.D. - psychiatrist and author of BEDLAM, An Intimate Journey into America’s Mental Health Crisis. 

“Don’t Neglect Your Mental Health during this Pandemic”

Tina Payne Bryson, co-author with Dan Siegel, M.D., of The Whole Brain Child and The Power of Showing Up“Coronavirus Talking Points for Parents and Teachers with the Whole Brain Child Approach”

Caroline Welch , author of The Gift of Presence: A Mindfulness Guide for Women. “How we can pave a pathway, especially during these especially challenging times, for living with more presence and meaning through an approach she calls the 3Ps of Purpose, Pivoting and Pacing”.


Robert Bilder, Ph.D., UCLA Professor of the Biology of Creativity has coined a new disorder for these times Zoom-Associated Delirium (ZAD): Includes at least three of the following symptoms: 
1) Disturbance of consciousness (i.e. reduced clarity of awareness of the environment), occurs with reduced ability to focus, sustain, or shift attention.

  • Headaches

  • Nausea

  • Vertigo

  • Irritability or Agitation

  • Intense cravings to visit the refrigerator or return to bed

2) Change in cognition (e.g. memory deficit, disorientation, language disturbance, perceptual disturbance) occurs that is not better accounted for by a preexisting established or evolving dementia


3) The disturbance develops over a short period (usually hours to days)


4) Evidence from the history, physical examination, or laboratory findings includes the disturbance I caused by sustained (usually more than 3 hours/day) exposure to or engagement in on-line video-teleconferencing, or other activities involving directed attention to and attempts to interact with images that occupy less than 0.1 degrees of visual angle


5) The disturbance causes significant disruption of occupational, academic or social function