Mental Health and Substance Use.

As part of Boston University’s on-campus Master of Public Health (MPH) degree, you have the option to add a Context Certificate to your functional area of concentration, deepening your knowledge in an area or population of greatest interest to you.

Mental Health and Substance Use (MHSU) Context Certificate

This 12-credit certificate provides foundational training in the conceptual frameworks, knowledge, and technical skills necessary to understand how mental illness and substance use disorders develop, are manifested, and treated. Utilizing a multi-determinants, population-based public health perspective, students will develop expertise in assessing, preventing, and reducing mental illness and unhealthy substance use, and in promoting mental health and wellness.

Upon graduation, students will be able to:

  • Develop a population-based understanding of mental health and unhealthy substance use, using the life course perspective and multi-level framework that emphasize behavioral, social, and structural antecedents and consequences of mental health and substance use.
  • Evaluate empirical evidence to describe the burden of mental illness and substance use on individuals, families, communities, and society.
  • Apply theories and evaluate empirical evidence on the social determinants of mental health and illness.
  • Develop skills in the design, implementation, and evaluation of prevention and harm reduction strategies that address mental health and substance use.
  • Propose strategies for promoting mental wellness, building resilience, and supporting substance use recovery in medical and community settings.

Sample Course Titles

  • Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Use: People, Populations, and Policies
  • Mental Health Advocacy
  • Global Mental Health
  • Mental Health Epidemiology
  • Substance Use Among Minoritized and Marginalized Populations
  • Trauma, Trauma-Informed Care, Recovery and Resilience

View the BU Bulletin for Course Requirements

Sample Practicum

  • Institute for Community Health — student was part of the epidemiology team for the trauma informed mental health project
  • Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership — student project involved implementation of the Positive Parenting Program (Triple P), which is designed to help parents handle challenging behaviors
  • Harvard University Student Health — student examined short-term risk factors for suicidal and self-injurious behavior among Harvard College students
  • Boston Medical Center’s SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment) Program, Project ASSERT — student assisted in providing comprehensive care and prevention by putting substance abuse in the context of other health and safety needs
  • Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts’ Education Department — intern addressed the issue of workplace discrimination against LGBTQ employees by creating a cultural competency educational program aimed at creating a more affirming and supportive environment for LGBTQ employees
  • Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) — student assisted in preparatory research and implementation of the Youth Access to Support and Services (YASS) whose goal is to better support young survivors’ mental health and prevent the sequela of adverse outcomes stemming from sexual trauma
  • Boston Medical Center — student assisted with subject recruitment, screening, assessment, and data collection, as well as subject tracking procedures and various administrative and quality control responsibilities
  • Boston Public Health Commission Early Childhood Mental Health Toolkit — student developed a Community Integration section of this Toolkit explaining that fostering relationships with community agencies is a critical component needed to ensure that individualized, comprehensive, and coordinated treatment regimens are in place
  • Boston Medical Center Department of Family Medicine, Program for Integrative Medicine & Health Disparities — analyzing the relationship between Immigration status and mental health

Certificate Director

“With mental illness and substance use disorders on the rise  and accounting for a substantial proportion of mortality and disability worldwide, public health professionals who understand how mental illness and unhealthy substance use disorders develop, are manifested, and treated will be at the forefront of a vitally important area of population-based public health. The Mental Health and Substance Use certificate offers skills in assessing, preventing, and reducing mental illness and unhealthy substance use, and in promoting mental health and wellness.”

Fall 2023/Spring 2024 Mental Health and Substance Use Certificate Roadmap*

Fall 2022/Spring 2023 Mental Health and Substance Use Certificate Roadmap*

*Please note that all roadmaps are subject to change

Contact the Department of  Community Health Sciences, the home of the MHSU Context Certificate, for any questions.

Graduate Student Life

Frequently Asked Questions

For more information about MPH degree requirements and admissions, request information to learn more.