Taking Care of Your Mental Health in College: 3 Common Challenges


College is often a wonderful experience for young men and women, providing a path to discover more about themselves and their desired field of education. However, this journey can also bring with it many rigors that may affect one’s mental and emotional wellbeing. Poor mental health of students on college campuses has been on the rise since 2013, and it’s important to know what the major mental health issues affecting college students are, so students can better take care of their own mental health, as well as that of those around them.

3 Major Mental Health Challenges Faced by College Students

1) Depression: Depression is the feeling of sadness for at least a period of two weeks, causing changes in one’s life, such as the lack of interest in daily activities, insomnia or excessive sleeping, lack of energy or concentration, significant weight loss, feelings of worthlessness or extreme guilt, and thoughts of suicide. Depression is the most common mental health issue faced by college students and the disorder contains many different branches, such as Major depressive disorder, Persistent depressive disorder, and Seasonal affective disorder, among many others. Some causes of this illness are hormone imbalances, inheritance through genetics, a change of environment that may make you feel uncomfortable, and biological differences in the brain, such as defective neurotransmitters. It’s important to recognize that a person can feel depressed from time to time without having major depressive disorder or any of those associated with it.

How to find help: The Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) center at UCLA is a valuable resource when needing a professional to talk to. Students can either walk in or schedule an appointment at CAPS. Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” is the most popular method of treatment for depression, which aims to help people understand their illness and to teach them ways to diminish unhealthy thoughts. Medication, such as antidepressants, are also treatment options, when recommended by a medical professional. GRIT Peer-to-Peer Coaching is an on campus resource that provides one-on-one sessions with trained coaches to promote the academic and personal success of students. The Resilience Peer Network (RPN) offers one-on-one help from trained undergraduate counselors through self-guided internet based cognitive behavioral therapy. Other beneficial care options include exercising daily, getting enough sleep, surrounding yourself with supportive family and friends, and tackling large tasks by breaking them down into smaller ones, so that they don’t seem so overwhelming.

2) Anxiety disorders: The definition of anxiety is an emotion described as bringing tension or worried thoughts that are persistent or recurring over a long period of time. These feelings are accompanied by physical changes in the body, such as increased blood pressure and heart rate. There are several different forms that are associated with anxiety, including general anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. Anxiety is the most common psychiatric illness, affecting almost 40 million adults in the U.S.; a large portion of those 40 million are college students. The disorder results from a series of factors including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events (like the possibly stressful transition into college). While many are affected by anxiety disorder, it is important to note that a person that is not diagnosable with an anxiety disorder can also experience feelings of anxiety.

How to find help: A wide variety of therapies have proven to be effective, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy , acceptance and commitment therapy , and dialectical-behavior therapy. Medications are also available, as prescribed by a psychiatrist or other medical professional, to help those with intense or chronic anxiety. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at UCLA is a beneficial resource for students to seek professional advice on campus. Meditation, yoga, and acupuncture have also had positive effects on mental health through their release of energy flow, relaxation, lowering heart rates and relieving stress. Check out HCI’s event calendar for dates and times of their drop-in meditations, and look into yoga classes offered at John Wooden Center to experience their benefits.

3) Relationship problems: challenges in romantic partnerships. Some examples are a lack of fairness/equality, not respecting one partner’s feelings, and feeling pressured to change for your partner. Other signs of an unhealthy relationship are a lack of privacy, or physical violence, that begin to negatively affect one’s emotional/mental health and overall wellbeing. It is often seen that college signals the beginning of many students first romantic relationships, or at least their first serious ones, and although these partnerships are thought of as blissful, they can sometimes become unhealthy. A survey by the American Psychological Association found that 35.8% of students visiting their college’s counseling centers were there seeking help for relationship problems that had begun to affect their mental health. Romantic relationships aren’t the only ones that can negatively affect mental health, friendships, and family ties can be equally as disruptive if they share the characteristics mentioned above.

How to find help: Along with CAPS, UCLA offers other helpful resources for those seeking help in their personal lives including Campus Assault Resources and Education (CARE) which offers counseling and a confidential place to talk for students who have faced domestic violence and/or stalking, or the UCLA offices of Ombuds Services which aims to offer fair and balanced assistance in settling disputes.

There are several different ways to go about treating the aforementioned mental health issues, but every individual is unique and may not respond the same way to certain recommended treatments. It’s good to explore as many of the options as possible to find out what works best for you. Use the symptoms described above, as well as your own research on websites like the American Psychological Association or the National Institute of Mental Health , to help you know what to look out for in your own mental health, as well as your fellow students. Good grades and an active social life may be important aspects of college, but taking care of our mental health is an important aspect of life that will remain with us forever. Are you currently struggling with one of the mental health issues mentioned, or have struggled with one in the past, and feel like sharing your experiences with other students? If so, comment or post online to spread the word about the importance of mental health in college and reach out to others who may be going through similar experiences.

Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.


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To judge or not to judge in mindfulness

By Lobsang Rapgay, PhD, research psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry UCLA

Being non-judgmental is a defining feature of modern forms of mindfulness. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, which is the most researched form, is the main draw for many to the practice of mindfulness. Part of the appeal is that many of us feel passionately that it is wrong to be judgmental of others. We might have strong feelings about being judged, criticized, and ridiculed, perhaps because we may have personally experienced their painful effects during childhood and even later in life. So when modern mindfulness says it will teach us to be non-judgmental, many of us buy into it readily.

We assume we are going to learn a special approach for how not to judge others based solely on their looks, gender, or race, or simply because we dislike them, and replace such biases with a more accepting approach. When someone we know is judgmental of others based on physical characteristics, we feel uncomfortable, upset, and wish we were not around such a toxic person.

On the other hand, we want our children to learn to make good choices as they go out into the world.  We want them to make informed judgements about the types of friends to go out with and those to avoid. Making good judgments involves not only making judgments based on one’s likes and dislikes, but also by weighing the pros and cons of whether the friendship is rewarding and meaningful.  Research shows that learning to make informed judgements can take a long time and is only fully developed well past adolescence.

Modern mindfulness trains us to avoid making any form of judgments, sometimes at the cost of learning to make informed judgments.  If a child is mean to others, mindfulness teaches us not to judge the child as mean. If someone never completes his or her assignments, mindfulness teaches us not to judge the person as lazy. Calling someone mean or lazy imposes a label that interferes with our ability to experience that person as a whole person. Instead, we identify them with one characteristic. John is not just a person, instead he is lazy John. According to modern mindfulness, this makes it impossible to recognize that John is a complex individual with both good and bad traits.

However, research shows that excessive training in non-judgment can impair cognitive functioning.  A 2015 study provides preliminary evidence for the negative effects of non-judgment training. Researchers found that subjects trained in non-judgment failed to accurately recall words they memorized earlier. The results suggest that excessive training in non-judgment appears to impair certain cognitive functions that are critical for accuracy of memory.  One of these impaired cognitive functions is discrimination: a critical function for differentiating between what words did and did not appear in a set.  When discrimination is impaired, it interferes with memorizing and, consequently, with accurate recall later.

Given that bias and judgment are virtually built into us – an evolutionary survival mechanism passed on from generation to generation– we need to question the purpose of being non-judgmental.  Studies show that judgments about various faces made in the first 1/10 of a second rarely changed even when the subjects later saw the same faces for a full minute.  The findings suggest that the instant we see a face, we categorize it– even before we have time to think about it.  These findings clearly suggest that training in non-judgment may have significant negative consequences on cognitive functioning.

One of the reasons for these inconsistencies lies with the founders of modern mindfulness, who have failed to clearly define non-judgment based on scientific concepts, principles and findings.  Rather, a practice was taken from the East, and poorly translated into a practice to suit the Western mindset. In fact, classical Buddhist teachings do not associate non-judgment training with mindfulness the way it is done in modern forms of mindfulness. Instead they teach the opposite: the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, as taught by the Buddha, begin with discrimination training in relationship to the sensory experience of the breath. In classical mindfulness, thinking is suspended to refine our capacity to fully sense our breath and body moment by moment in a non-evaluative and non-reactive way.  The objective is to reduce our habitual thinking, imaging, and self-narratives in order to experience the sensory world directly.

Modern mindfulness training in non-judgment is a powerful way to reduce excessive judgmental thinking, worrying, and ruminating, which are responsible for exacerbating common psychiatric disorders like anxiety and depression.  The above evidence suggests that we have to learn to be both non-judgmental at one level, and make healthy and informed judgments on another level.

People using modern forms of mindfulness can, therefore, benefit enormously by complementing non-judgment training with making healthy informed judgments. This requires learning when to apply non-judgment and when to make informed judgments. Integrating classical mindfulness provides an excellent means to do this given that it is consistent with current forms of mindfulness.

When you know exactly when and how to apply non-judgment skills, you can then train yourself in discrimination, as taught in classical mindfulness. Once you acquire the ability to discriminate between various types of sensations associated with the breath and the body, you can extend that skill to discriminate between various types of thoughts, affect, and behavior.  The beauty about classical mindfulness is that such discrimination is not made based on moral values of the individual, but rather by observing, in a non-evaluative and non-reactive way, the effects that thoughts, affect, and behavior have upon you.

As you acquire insight into the consequent effects of specific thoughts, affect, and behavior, you can verify those insights with further behavioral experimentation to determine if your assumptions and conclusions are valid.  Over time, you may discover a pattern – certain types of thoughts, affect, and behavior lead to distress, fear, anger and a host of other psychological and behavioral imbalances.  On the other hand, other types of thoughts, affect, and behavior lead to awareness, calm, self-regulation, and positivity.  Through personal experience and discovery, you can confirm which of these are beneficial and which are harmful.

In this way, you develop a template of how to think, feel, and act not based solely on what you have been told, but rather based on your personal exploration through an objective yet gentle process of direct experience, complemented with insight and validated with repeated behavioral experimentation.

Rather than seeing the two forms of mindfulness as contradictory and exclusionary, opening yourself to the full exploration of what both current and classical teachings have to offer, can lead to a life-long, meaningful skill that can serve us well through our quest for growth and development in the midst of a challenging and demanding world.

Lobsang Rapgay, PhD is a research psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry UCLA under the mentorship of Robert Bilder, Phd. He also maintains a private practice in West Los Angeles. His primary area of research is on the neural, physiological, and behavioral correlates of fear reconsolidation. He was a Tibetan Buddhist monk for 18 years and is well trained in the theory and practice of Buddhism.

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Beauty Inside and Out: Female Body Image and Mental Health


Every year, thousands of young women head off to college in pursuit of personal growth and higher education. However, this big change can alter the way women view their bodies and themselves. Studies show that college-aged females are particularly concerned with the way their bodies look, which consequently impacts the mental health of female students. Focusing on papers, midterms, and other assignments can be hard enough on its own, but with the added challenge of one not being comfortable in one’s own skin, college life becomes even more challenging.

What is body image?

Body image is a subjective picture or mental image of one’s own body that is influenced both by self-observation and by noting the reactions of others. Struggles with body image are not unique to any singular group of individuals, and can affect people of any gender, race, and sexual orientation. Having a healthy body image means having an undistorted perception of your shape, feeling comfortable and confident in your body, and appreciating your individual uniqueness. However, it is completely normal to not feel confident about your body 100% of the time — everyone has off days every now and then. A healthy body image is about having a positive relationship with your body and learning to process and deal with off days or bad body thoughts instead of putting ourselves down.

What’s so important about having a healthy body image? Body image dissatisfaction is linked to higher rates of depression, stress, isolation and insecurity, all of which can take a huge toll on the body and the mind. Working towards a healthy body image is especially important for college students because bad body thoughts and insecurities can dramatically affect their education and work quality.

How Body Image is Linked to Health

Studies show that as many as 40% of college females have eating disorders or serious problems relating to body image. That means two out of every five women on college campuses are not able to get the most out of their educational experience. Furthermore, the number of women that are unhappy with their bodies is at an all-time high of 91%, with 58% of college females feeling pressure to be a certain weight. This is incredibly dangerous, because poor body image contributes to poor mental health, and can consequently interfere with learning. Studies show that people with negative body images have higher levels of depression, anxiety, and suicidality than those without. Bad body thoughts can cause low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and make one feel as though their body is inadequate.

These statistics given demonstrate some of the ways women’s college experiences and self esteem can be affected, and can cause such a heavy burden that it makes it hard for them to function on a day to day basis. Women entering college are in a critical age group in terms of body image, and so it is important that they are provided with resources that can help them to feel comfortable and confident on their college campuses.

Why does college contribute to negative body image?

The college transition can be very difficult because it can often be very different from what an individual may have experienced in previous years of education; the introduction of a new setting, new people, and new mentalities can also influence one’s body image. In an article on Her Campus, one student claims that “college does not promote a healthy body image because there is so much fear over how easily one can gain weight.” There is social pressure to consume unhealthy dining hall food, party on weekends, and drink alcohol, yet at the same time there is a pressure to stay fit and not gain the dreaded “Freshman Fifteen.” These contribute to the anxiety women feel during their college experiences, and can cause them to waver in their studies because of having poor mental health.

The pressures of college atmospheres can force female students to be more focused on what they eat and how much they exercise than on their studies and extracurriculars. Some students suggest that if campuses “promoted a balance between staying healthy and enjoying being young” this that would allow students to feel more confident in their own bodies and minds. UCLA has taken strides to make changes among its campus through offering many resources to help combat negative body image and eating disorders, such as an Eating Disorders Program which offers help to people of all ages, and a research program dedicated to understanding and assisting those with Body Dysmorphic Disorder. There is even a student group dedicated to promoting healthy body image on campus called the Body Image Task Force.

Tips to Build a Healthy Body Image

There are a plethora of ways to work on building a healthy body image, and in turn, maintain one’s mental health throughout college. One way to build your self-image is to build a strong family support system and immerse yourself in it; strong family bonds are beneficial to curtailing outside pressures. Next time you’re feeling down about yourself or your body, try calling a family member or other loved one to cheer you up and remind you that you are loved. You can also work to develop skills to deal with stress, such as taking time out of your day to meditate or listening to your favorite music, which are calming activities that will help to create balance in your life. Additionally, try to be more proactively self-compassionate. One study found that people that actively practice self-compassion are more likely to have a healthy body image and experience a higher quality of life.

College can be a day-to-day struggle, and what’s harder than just that in today’s world? Being a female college student dealing with an unhealthy body image and all that accompanies it. Helping students feel as though they are accepted for their bodies is imperative, and contributing to other’s having positive thoughts about themselves can make a great difference in a female’s college experience. It’s okay to love yourself for who you are, treat yourself right and do what you want to do to be mentally and physically happy. With support from campuses and those around us, awareness of positive body image and mental health of female students can be brought to the light.

Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.

Mind Well Gives Students Tools to Address Their Mental Health

By Ross Szabo, Author Behind Happy Faces

Every week I read new studies, reports, or articles letting us know what’s wrong with college students today. They’re stressed out more than ever. They’re not sleeping. They’re abusing prescription medications. They’re overweight. They’re depressed. The list goes on and on. In some ways it’s like society is normalizing these problems for students instead of giving them skills to deal with what’s happening.  Students hear the news and are overwhelmed when they identify with these issues, but where are the solutions?

In response to these studies, an endless amount of mental health, mental illness, and suicide awareness campaigns address these problems. Grassroots organizations use PSAs, websites, and marketing materials to highlight helpful information to reach affected populations with messaging that students should seek help and end stigma. There are more young mental health advocates today than ever before. Students are standing up and giving a voice to these issues to empower others to come forward.

Moving Beyond Mental Health Awareness

We definitely need to continue the mental health awareness efforts that are being done on campuses. But, we also need to go further. Most universities have been focused on training faculty, parents, and students on what to do when someone has a mental health challenge, but typically the only thing we tell someone who is experiencing a problem is to seek help.

In some ways this is like telling everyone else what to do when someone has a heart condition, without giving the person with the condition any idea of what they can do for themselves. Mental health has to be the only public health issue where we attempt to prepare everyone for a crisis, but don’t give the individuals who are experiencing the problems the tools they need to address their emotions.

This approach creates numerous problems. Counseling centers are overwhelmed. Students can’t afford to seek help off campus. The lucky ones who have access to mental health treatment have to start developing coping skills for the first time in therapy, instead of learning these skills from a younger age. The earlier a person identifies a mental health disorder and accepts it, the better chance they have to manage the issue. Unfortunately, most people are being told they should seek help only after something significant has changed in their lives, instead of receiving proactive education from a young age.

Mind Well Makes a Difference

UCLA has been doing tremendous work to help students with educational efforts from the Mind Well pod of the Healthy Campus Initiative. The goal of Mind Well is to promote wellness of mind, brain and spirit, foster creativity, and enhance social connectedness throughout the UCLA community.

Mind Well has hosted events to educate students about sleep, meditation, mindfulness, and happiness. What makes their approach so successful is full student involvement. For example, this past spring, two students won a contest by creating their own mindfulness-coloring book and successfully distributing it to thousands of students at UCLA as well as other campuses.

Mind Well is currently conducting a Mind Lexicon study to determine the words students use to describe their emotions and assess if students know the meaning of commonly used mental health terms. The results will be a baseline to enhance outreach and educational efforts.

We need to start teaching mental health the same way we teach physical health. Mind Well helps make learning about difficult topics more approachable. Students get the chance to better understand brain development, what affects their moods, how to change coping mechanisms, the symptoms of mental health disorders, and how to manage their mental health.

For more information about our work on campus, visit our website.


Play Explores Mental Health and Friendship With Beloved TV Show as a Backdrop

By Gene Gillespie

I get by with a little help from my friends – The Beatles

Doesn’t everyone have that favorite book they can pick up and read a few pages, and feel the sensation of an old friend’s embrace? Or a song that helps them see hope when it feels like there is none? Or a film that provides an escape from their daily struggles when they feel they can’t continue?

The concept of art as a means of coping and consolation is central to a play being produced by UCLA Semel Institute’s Center for Health Services and Society (HSS). On October 7th and 9th, the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center’s Tamkin Auditorium will hold two performances of The One with Friends, written by HSS staff member Joseph Mango. The play follows an aspiring writer (Lucy, played by Miranda Wynne) and a struggling actor (Callum, played by Nick McLoughlin) confronting feelings of depression and isolation as they strive for personal and professional success. The play is being produced in conjunction with a pilot research study that assesses the impact of the arts on stigma and perceptions of mental health. HSS, which also helped bring the story of USC Law Professor Elyn Saks’ battle with schizophrenia to the operatic stage at UCLA in July (see Huffington Post article here), will hold this event as a part of an ongoing effort to raise community awareness and understanding of mental health through the arts.

The play is set primarily in a Santa Monica coffee shop, where Lucy is composing a script for a reunion episode of the beloved television show Friends, which aired on NBC from 1994-2004. Through Lucy’s perspective, the play explores our experience of personal tragedy, and the anxieties and uncertainties of pursuing your dreams in the face of tremendous odds. “I was so drawn to the character of Lucy, who I find both instantly relatable and hilarious in her desire to alienate others,” says director Ashley Griggs. “It has been such an exciting task to tackle a character with layers like hers; someone who is blunt and kind and cold and vulnerable, all at once.”

The other lead, Callum, suffers from clinical depression, offering a unique yet intersecting perspective to that of Lucy. Callum’s depression leaves him isolated and only after his therapist assigns him the task of approaching a stranger as part of his treatment, does he meet Lucy. They build a friendship grounded both in their personal problems, but also in their shared professional interests and aspirations, and the burgeoning hope that there are better times ahead. Chloé Hung, who plays The Model, discussed the connection between the main characters, despite and perhaps because of, their differences: “Callum and Lucy’s relation to depression is very different, but they can recognize a similar quality and relate to each other through their respective experience. The script is incredibly empathetic and emphasizes the need for one another to reach out and just listen.”

Friends is personified as an actual character in the play, and much of the emotional verve brought by the actors is derived from a deep-seated nostalgia for the show’s characters. “I think the reason this show was so successful is because the audience could find something relatable in every single one of the characters,” says Miranda Wynne, who plays Lucy.

The One with Friends aims to bring a deeper understanding of the emotional and mental challenges faced by our fellow human beings, and offers a reassurance that no one is alone. “I think art really helps mental health awareness just by bringing it to light. A lot of these things can be difficult to talk about,” says Lindsey Ford, who plays The Warm-Up Woman. “When someone on television, in a movie, or in a play talks about having suicidal thoughts or dealing with a bad depression, it not only allows others to recognize that many people deal with these difficulties, it empowers the friends and family of those individuals an entry into conversations about these types of mental health issues.”

For playwright Joseph Mango, the play is a semi-autobiographical account drawing on emotions from his angst-filled teenage years, fraught with social pressures to the distinct anxieties of young adulthood. Throughout these challenges, one television show was a constant, not subject to the rollercoaster of emotion that life can become. “In writing the play, I wanted to emphasize the important role family and friends play, as well as the arts, when a loved one is living with major depression. While everyone’s experience with depression is different, and medication and therapy aid in the journey of recovery, I always believe that the support of family, friends, and that favorite TV show, movie, or song when you need it most is just as important. Friends is something that is constant and positive and has been there for me since it debuted in 1994,” says Mango.

Exploring his personal thoughts and the role of Friends in his life allowed Mango to channel his passion for battling depression stigma through the arts. This inspired him to co-lead a pilot study to assess the impact of his play on people’s knowledge and attitude toward depression and how this might be affected by the arts. With the play, Mango and HSS hope to increase understanding of depression and to celebrate the power of the arts in promoting healing.

For more information about the play and to reserve free tickets, visit: http://www.theonewithfriends.com

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to everyone. All calls are confidential.


Photo Credit: Elizabeth Lizaola; Caption: L-R: Nick McLoughlin, Joseph Mango, and Miranda Wynne visited the Friends’ Central Perk set on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour

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Putting Your Brain First: 5 Mental Health Student Organizations at UCLA

The beginning of another school year brings opportunities for students to get involved with new or different clubs and organizations on campus. UCLA is home to more than 1,000 student groups spanning a wide variety of topics from healthcare to soccer to fashion, so there’s a club for you on campus no matter your interests!

If mental health is one of your passions, there are many groups you can get involved with on campus. Check out this list of student groups and join one that will help you take care of your own mental health while helping others with theirs!

1) Yoga for Flexible Futures is a nonprofit organization that teaches the importance of yoga and nutrition to kids. The health benefits of yoga include increased body awareness; stress reliefreduced incidence of anxiety, depression, and insomnia; and even more. Once every week, Yoga for Flexible Futures members visit the UCLA Community School (a public K-12 school partnered with UCLA that strives to teach students to be multicultural, active participants in society) to teach a yoga class that is specifically designed to capture children’s attention. The classes always revolve around a fun theme (like under the sea or Halloween) and incorporate traditional yoga poses into a unique learning experience. The club also spreads the health benefits of yoga on UCLA’s campus by collaborating with other student groups to lead adult classes. New member training, which will be held on October 2nd, will certify incoming members to teach children’s yoga and allow them to instruct classes throughout the year with the club. Check out their Facebook page to apply now and for more information.

2) Active Minds is a national organization that aims to change the conversation surrounding mental health by teaching students the importance of advocating for mental health and working to fight the stigmas associated with mental health. UCLA’s chapter is actually the biggest Active Minds chapter in the entire country! The organization aims to change the way people view mental health by helping everyone realize that mental health is a shared aspect of life we all need to do our best to take care of. The group hosts workshops, events, and educational opportunities to better support those who need help improving their mental health. Check out their Facebook page for upcoming events and for their Fall application. Also, check out the All of Us campaign that recently merged with Active Minds and is now its own committee under the group. All of Us is a campaign that stresses that while not every individual has a mental illness, every individual has mental health that must be proactively cared for. The campaign aims to break the stigma surrounding mental health by holding educational programs, workshops, and events created to educate the community on the importance of seeking help before concerns with mental health become crises.

3) Bridging Minds Through Art, affiliated with the Painted Brain, is a student group that was created to bring people within UCLA’s mental health community together through the use of artistic expression. The Painted Brain is a nonprofit organization that uses art to bridge the gap between those struggling with mental heath and those who are not through collaborations, a magazine, and vocalized story sharing. Bridging Minds Through Art is made up of artists, poets, musicians, writers, and others who are interested in art that all work together to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. The organization allows people who are struggling with poor mental health to collaborate with others from all backgrounds to create art pieces that reflect what it’s like to live with their mental health struggles. Creative expression is the driving force for this organization in developing a positive community through hosting events at colleges, high schools, and several other locations that mix art and mental health awareness/expression. Get involved by visiting the Painted Brain’s nearby community center (open to anyone with a passion for art), contributing an art piece to be displayed during a showcase, or taking one of the coding workshops offered by the organization.

4) Autism Speaks U at University of California, Los Angeles is a campus chapter furthering the work of the organization Autism Speaks. The organization engages college campuses and local communities to help all of those affected by Autism. The UCLA chapter desires to change the future set for all individuals struggling with any version of Autism. In particular, the club is interested in funding research about the causes of Autism, methods of prevention, and treatments; raising awareness about the disorder; and understanding its effect on individuals, families, and society. Check out the club’s Facebook page for more information and get involved by participating in events like Walk Now for Autism Speaks, the Los Angeles Racket Run by ACEing Autism, and more.

5) Falun Dafa at UCLA is a student organization and Qigong group that offers free meditation. Millions of people all over the world participate in the traditional, high-level Chinese practice involving the use of posture, breathing techniques, and mental focus. The club promotes the meditative art by teaching it to others and also promotes overall social well-being. The practice of meditation has numerous mental health benefits: reducing negative emotions; building skills to manage stress; increasing self-awareness; reducing pain, high blood pressure, and insomnia; and combatting anxiety and depression.  Check out the club’s Facebook page for more information about this specific practice of meditation and upcoming events.

The new school year may have just begun, but it is never too soon or too late to get involved with groups that can help to keep you mentally healthy and happy or to encourage your peers to adopt healthy habits. Check out these organizations for yourselves and see if any of them are a good fit for your own personality and individual mental health needs. Don’t see your favorite mental health club on here? Comment and share your feedback online to connect others with great opportunities to get involved with mental health around campus.

Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.

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UCLA Health and Wellness Resources 101: A Guide for New Students

In addition to the Healthy Campus Initiative, there are many great health and wellness resources for students on UCLA’s campus. If you’re new to campus, use this list to familiarize yourself with the resources that can help you enjoy the best and healthiest college experience possible.

UCLA Recreation — UCLA offers numerous places to workout on campus, all free with your Bruin card: the John Wooden Center, the Bruin Fitness Center (BFit), Drake Stadium, Sunset Canyon Recreation (which boasts multiple pools), and the Los Angeles Tennis Center. UCLA Recreation also offers numerous fitness classes every quarter, from yoga to barbell to salsa dancing, so you can try something new every quarter if you desire! You can also rent bikes at the Bike Shop or camping equipment at the Equipmental Rental center.

UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) — UCLA’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) center describes itself as a multi-disciplinary mental health center. In addition to offered individual counseling session to students, it offers group therapy, wellness workshops, and much more. CAPS is located in John Wooden Center West and is available to all students (though the quantity of services or sessions available depends on whether or not you subscribe to UCLA’s health insurance, UCSHIP). More than one in four students utilize CAPS, so if there’s something bothering you or you need someone to talk to about your college transition, don’t be afraid to use it –make an appointment today simply by showing up at the front desk.

LGBTQ Campus Resource Center — The LGBTQ Campus Resource Center offers a wide range of services to students, from academic mentors to career counseling to individual counseling. The center has fours CAPS counsellors in-residence that are available for drop-in counseling throughout the week and offers LGBTQ-specific therapy groups. The center also boasts a library, cyber center, and an ally training program, and hosts numerous events for students a quarter.

Student Wellness Commission (SWC) — The Student Wellness Commission is an office within the Undergraduate Student Association Counsel. The commission is made up of 12 student-run committees that address all aspects of student health and wellness on campus, from mental health to consent education to body image. SWC puts on dozens of health-related events for students each quarter and provides free condoms and feminine hygiene products outside its office (Kerckhoff 308). Keep up-to-date on their events by liking their facebook page.

Cafe 580 — Cafe 580, located at 580 Hilgard Avenue (inside St. Alban’s Episcopal Church), provides free meals to financially struggling students. The cafe offers free meals three times a day Monday through Friday and feeds everyone that knocks on its door, no questions asked.

Bruin Resource Center (BRC) — The Bruin Resource Center, located in Bradley Hall on the hill, provides many resources for UCLA students, including transfers, veterans, active military, undocumented students, and students with dependents. The BRC also runs UCLA’s GRIT counseling program, which offers free peer-to-peer counseling. You can sign up for a GRIT coach here.

Student Activities Center (SAC) — The Student Activities Center, located in Dickson court, is home to numerous campus resources. The Community Programs Office (CPO) contains the Student Retention Center (SRC) which provides services to help retain students, especially those who have historically lacked support in higher education, until graduation. You can also the UCLA Test bank (where you can get a copy of the last final your professor gave by trading in one of your exams), the CPO Computer Lab (with free printing for all students), a nightly Study Hall, the Commuter Van Ride Service, and the Writing Success Program to support the academic and holistic development of students. The CPO food closet, where financially struggling students can find canned foods and fresh produce, is located in room 111 and open from 8am-6pm. SAC is also home to a pool and basketball courts.

Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars — The Dashew center, located in Bradley Hall on the hill, aims to support UCLA’s 12,000 international students. The center has numerous programs throughout the year, most of which are open to all UCLA students. The center assists international students with visa applications and coordinates programs such as Thanksgiving dinner and language circles.

UCLA Center for Accessible Education (CAE) — The Center for Accessible Education works to support and meet the educational needs of Bruins with disabilities. The office offers note-taking services, van rides around campus, support groups, individual counseling, test-taking accommodations, and more.

Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center — The Ashe center is UCLA’s student health center. Here you can make appointments for your annual check-up, get free flu vaccines, pick up a free toothbrush, and fill prescriptions at the pharmacy. Call (310) 825-4073 to make an appointment or learn more about the services Ashe offers.

Title IX Office — The Title IX education amendment prohibits any discrimination due to sex or gender on campus. The office on campus exists to ensure that UCLA’s community remains free of discrimination, including sexual harassment and sexual violence. If you ever wish to discuss your rights on campus or feel as if your rights have been violated, the Title IX office’s doors are open to you.

Danielle de Bruin is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the UCLA Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also a published co-author in the journal PLOS Medicine.

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Tips to Fight Every College Student’s Worst Habit: Procrastination


If you are a UCLA student, you are probably all too familiar with procrastination. In fact, you might even be procrastinating right now as you read this blog post! I am no different; I have lost count of how many times I have submitted assignments just an hour before they were due, telling myself “Never again!”…

According to procrastination research, 80-95% of college students procrastinate, especially on their academic work. Consequently, It is no surprise that procrastination is consistently associated with a lower grade point average. In addition to poor academic performance, another study found an association between procrastination and chronic health problems such as hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, which is likely due to the added stress procrastination can bring on.

Why Do We Procrastinate?

As summarized in a Washington Post article, there are many different views on why people procrastinate; some researchers claim it is due to lack of self-control, while others say it is a coping mechanism people use to deal with tasks they associate with fear or dread. Another proposed explanation is that procrastinators lack an emotional connection to their future-selves, which makes them to think about and relate to the future consequences of procrastinating today. Yet another perspective argues that some people intentionally choose procrastinate because they work better under the pressure.

How Can We Resist the Temptation to Procrastinate?

Whatever our reason for procrastinating may be, understanding how we can reduce resist the temptation to put off important tasks and learn better time management skills can help us to both improve our academic performance and our well-being.

Use Technology Wisely

Dr. Ferrari, an expert on procrastination, argues that today’s technology should be a helpful tool for better time management rather than a means of delay. One practical step you can take is putting your smart phone on Do Not Disturb mode. I do this often when I need to focus on reading, finish assignments in a short span of time, or get a good night’s sleep. By putting my phone on Do Not Disturb, I am able to free myself from the distraction that my phone brings. Another easy strategy is to utilize the calendar and/or reminder function and organize tasks in order of urgency and importance. There are also several apps you can download on your computer or phone to discourage procrastination. On your computer, try downloading the Blocksite extension for Google Chrome, which you can use to block Facebook, Pinterest, or other sites you tend to frequent when you’re avoiding tasks. If you have an iPhone, the app Procrastinatorr will send you notifications if you start to use other apps while you’re supposed to be working on a certain task.

Take a Break

While it may seem counter-intuitive, research has shown that taking a break is an important part of being productive. Some healthy ways to take a break include going on a walk, taking a tea break, meditation, and doing indoor exercises. Just make sure your break doesn’t become so long that it distracts you from moving on to the next task! Using a timer could be a good way to prevent this.

Whether you were reading this post as a way to procrastinate or not, I hope it encouraged you to be more productive and gain greater control of procrastinating. Procrastination may seem like a habit that is unbreakable, but I believe that with practice, we can fight the procrastination. If you have any tools or tips you have found helpful for fighting procrastination, please share them with me at livewellblog@gmail.com or on Facebook!

Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.

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The Health Benefits of Prosocial Behavior

Today, August 19th is World Humanitarian Day, which recognizes the aid workers who have lost their lives in order to provide humanitarian assistance to people around the world. In addition to recognizing humanitarians, it is important to celebrate the spirit of humanitarianism — and its health benefits. This article investigates the health benefits of engaging in prosocial behavior, and offers simple, easy ways to incorporate prosocial behavior into daily college life.

What is Prosocial Behavior?

Prosocial behavior refers to voluntary action that intends to benefit other people and/or society as a whole. It encompasses a wide range of behaviors from something as simple as holding the door for someone behind you to making a financial contribution to a charity. Such actions not only benefit those around us, but also our own well-being.

Benefits of Prosocial Behavior on Well-Being

In a recent study on the association between prosocial behavior and daily stress, subjects were asked to report both levels of stress, positive affect, and negative affect and the number of prosocial activities they engaged in for 2 weeks,. The study found that subjects who reported more time engaged in prosocial behavior showed higher levels of positive mood. Furthermore, subjects who engaged in greater than average number of prosocial activities experienced less negative affect in response to daily stress, leading to better overall mental health. In other words, engaging in prosocial behavior may be effective in defusing the negative influence of stress on positive affect and emotional well-being.

Another study compared life satisfaction of subjects before and after performing 10 days of either acts of kindness, acts of novelty, or no act. The study revealed that acts of kindness and acts of novelty resulted in increased life satisfaction, whereas the control condition did not result in a significant difference. It suggests that as little as 10 days of engaging in prosocial behavior or trying something new can positively affect how we feel about our lives.

Incorporate Prosocial Behavior into your Campus Routine

A new school year is quickly approaching. If one of your goals for the new school year is to improve your emotional health and self-esteem, brainstorming creative ways to engage in prosocial behavior may be a strategy to consider. Here are some suggestions:

1. Share your snack with classmates, even if you don’t know them – and even better if it’s something nutritious, like dried fruits or nuts.

2. Smile and express gratitude to maintenance staff in the dorms and dining halls – the clean environment and delicious food would not be possible without them.

3. Write a positive memo for your roommate(s) such as “Have a nice day” or “Thank you for taking the trash out.” Small acts of appreciation can go a long way for developing a positive relationship.

4. Leave a sticky note with positive slogan on the desk in the lecture hall for a fellow student who would sit in your spot for the next lecture – it might be just what they need to get through the day.

5. Hold the elevator for someone if they appear to be in a rush — we’ve all been in that situation and know how can those few extra seconds can make a world of a difference.

Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.

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The best mental health book that isn’t a mental health book

The best health and wellness book I have ever read is not one in the traditional sense. It is not written by a doctor, psychologist, or other professional claiming to know the answers to how to find peace within oneself. It is written by an ordinary person who faced several struggles in their life and decided to share how they found themselves after a long time of being lost. The book is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, a nonfiction novel that shares the author’s firsthand accounts of her once-perfect life that fell to ruin, and of her journey to three different countries where she learns to put the pieces of herself together again.

The book begins with Gilbert at the lowest point in her life, where she questions why she should continue in a life that seems to have pushed her to her limits. It is a nighttime miracle that inspires Gilbert to prioritize her happiness and take a very special trip around the world. Each of the countries Gilbert visits during her year of adventure brings with it a different step towards healing: learning to love her body, losing the feeling of guilt, learning devotion through yoga, and balancing between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.

Before Gilbert’s journey began, she was plagued with depression, suicidal thoughts, an eating disorder, stress, and anxiety. However, each country she visits during her soul searching mends a part of her that was wounded. Gilbert encourages all who are facing struggles, or who have contemplated suicide, to turn to journaling as an outlet and safe space for releasing fears, anger, sadness, and doubts from the mind, so as to keep nothing but happiness inside one’s head and worries on the paper. The honesty in which mental illness is written about through this novel is striking, parts of which are excerpts from Gilbert’s diary, which she credits for saving her life and helping her regain her mental stability. By including excerpts from her diary, Gilbert creates an intimacy that allows readers to feel as though they are going through the experiences, growth, and healing along with Gilbert. Gilbert offers yoga, meditation, exploration, and indulgence as remedies, from her personal experiences, to depression and anxiety. One significant message the book conveys is that in order to heal one’s scars, they first have to forgive themselves; Gilbert cites this as the best advice she was ever given, which she passes on to readers in hope that it will assist in their own battles. Gilbert admits that if she had not taken such actions to change her life that she would not be alive today. Her story aims to show that there is so much to discover in the world that brings euphoria and peace of mind to people’s lives, and that if actions are not taken to alter one’s unpleasant position, all of the world’s beauty will be missed. By putting herself and her own happiness first, Gilbert is able to return to her favorite version of herself, work through her mental health struggles, and create a piece of literature that is able to help others do the same.

Gilbert’s story exemplifies that we all go through low points, but we do not have to succumb to them or let them ruin us, for, “..perhaps [our lives have] not actually been so chaotic, after all. It is merely this world that is chaotic, bringing changes to us all that nobody could have anticipated” (320). This story is a simple reminder to never give up on ourselves, because we are incredible beings and the world has so much to offer. I have read many books in my lifetime, and never has a nonfiction book touched my heart in such a way, or caused me to alter my life. As this book is filled with diverse content, it can appeal to almost anyone: travel bugs, foodies, hopeless romantics, linguists, yogis, soul searchers, comfort seekers, and many more. It is one of the best books to be read when wishing for a reason to persevere and desiring to find happiness and well-being in one’s own life.

Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.