Mental and behavioral health.

In August 2020, data from the National Center for Health Statistics indicated that one in three American adults reported symptoms of an anxiety disorder—up from one in 12 the previous year. Around the same time, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a majority of Americans reported that they believed the coronavirus pandemic was affecting their mental health. In September 2020, A team of BU researchers including students, alumni, and faculty were the first in the country to report on a three-fold increase in poor mental health during COVID-19.

SPH is home to researchers examining how trauma, racism, illness, and other harmful factors influence mental health and behavior, causing problems ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to substance use disorder to suicide. By better connecting these negative outcomes to their causes, they are developing interventions and treatments to help people in crisis and those heading toward it. They are also gathering big-picture data to spot broader trends.

Some of SPH’s many research projects with a mental-health focus include:

  • Leading work in gun violence, with the ultimate aim of providing the data needed to identify new strategies for addressing firearm violence at its roots by changing societal norms
  • A project using data from the Department of Veterans Affairs to determine if any existing medications can be repurposed for treatment of PTSD—a project with potential to greatly help persons with PTSD, and soon
  • Numerous projects related to substance abuse, including studies of alcohol use in HIV patients and among transgender patients receiving hormone therapy, comparisons of treatment models for opioid abuse, and reviews of intervention tools meant to decrease drug use and consequences in primary care patients

Just as the negative effects of a traumatic event can take years to become evident, research into mental and behavioral health must be sustained and unrushed. Donor support is critical both to launching new inquiries and to ensuring that ongoing ones ultimately make a difference in people’s lives.

Additional mental & behavioral health news

For help exploring which options best fit your interests, please reach out to Jacoba van Heugten, Assistant Dean of Development, at 617-358-3321 or at