Mental Health Matters, Let's Talk About It

"Mental health is a dynamic state of internal equilibrium which enables individuals to use their abilities in harmony with universal values of society. Basic cognitive and social skills; ability to recognize, express, and modulate one’s own emotions, as well as empathize with others; flexibility and ability to cope with adverse life events and function in social roles; and harmonious relationship between body and mind represent important components of mental health which contribute, to varying degrees, to the state of internal equilibrium” (World Psychiatric Association, 2015). 

Mental Health Matters

Educating Yourself on Mental Health

Take A Closer Look


Educating yourself on the ways in which mental health affects - and is affected by - our daily lives is important in learning how to properly care for and tend to our holistic health & well-being. 

What is Mental Health?


  • Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, how we feel, and how we act. Mental health helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. It is important at every stage of life, and it is not static.

  • Mental health and mental illness are neither the same entity nor necessarily directly opposed to each other - they are related yet distinct phenomena. One may have a mental illness and be in excellent mental health; conversely, one may have no mental illness but, for various reasons, may be unable to function well, emotionally, psychologically, or socially. We hold this dual continuum model in mind because it allows a nuanced conversation and recognizes the importance of skills, knowledge and attitudes that allow for positive mental health, and empowers individuals to proactively tend to and care for their mental health. 

What affects it & what it affects

  • Much like physical health, mental health flows along a continuum. One’s state of mental health is affected by many factors, and even for the same person may vary over time. 

  • Throughout our lives, multiple determinants may combine to protect or undermine our mental health and shift our position on the mental health continuum. As humans, we are all subject to life’s inevitable traumas and stresses. We can’t escape them, we will all be affected by them, and they impact us on many levels. 

  • When the demands placed on us exceed our resources and coping abilities, our mental health could be impacted. The key is to understand that any of the multitude of factors can manifest as a “disorder” and that we must learn how to recognize the feelings and symptoms to look out for. If we can begin to understand that we have control to be proactive about our mental health, by learning and implementing various tools and resources, we can feel empowered and have a sense of hope.  


What is Stress?

Understanding Stress

  • Stress is defined as the way we respond to our environment or an event that happens; how we perceive a situation. It can also be a physiological attempt by the body to protect itself from a threat or a perceived danger. Stress is a reaction to a stimulus that disturbs our equilibrium - there can be stressors that are chronic, acute, happen through the ripple effect, can be personal or non-personal struggles, trigger stressors, and daily hassles that affect us. We may respond differently to a stressor today than we might tomorrow - in fact, how we respond to a stressor can even vary throughout the course of a day.

Where Does Stress Come From?

  • Most people experience a wide range of stressors every day. Some common examples of stressors include difficult relationships, academic pressure, health problems, grief & loss, problems at work, and financial difficulties. But not all stressors are external. Many of the things that cause us stress are things that we’ve internalized. Internal sources of stress can include negative thinking, social anxiety, aggression, suppressed emotions, and exhaustion.
  • There is no limit to the various causes of stress. They are as individual as the people they affect. No matter what is causing your stress, it is important you learn how to address and manage it. Unaddressed, prolonged stress can take a significant toll on the mind and body. 

Types of Stress

  • Stress doesn’t operate the same way in everyone. There are several different types of stress. The main three types people experience most often are acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress.
  • Acute stress is the most common type of stress. When the majority of us say we feel stressed, this is the type of stress we’re talking about. Acute stress is the body’s immediate response to a challenging or unfamiliar situation. It’s the type of stress you might experience when you ride a roller coaster or engage in public speaking. Joy can also cause an acute stress reaction! Sometimes being a little bit frightened is enjoyable. It gives your body and brain the chance to practice responding to stressful situations. When the stressful situation passes, so should your body’s reaction. Severe acute stress isn’t like that. This is the kind of stress that happens when you experience a situation that is life-threatening. Severe acute stress can lead to mental health challenges.
  • Episodic acute stress is like acute stress. The difference is in how frequently they occur. Acute stress goes away quickly, but the episodic version continues to reoccur. Anxiety can make this type of stress reaction even worse. This type of stress can make life feel more turbulent and out of control. Without proper stress management, episodic acute stress can have damaging effects on your physical and mental health..

  • Chronic stress is what happens when you experience high levels of stress over prolonged periods of time. This type of stress can have serious negative impacts on your overall health. Chronic stress contributes to anxiety and depression, as well as other mental health conditions. It can also contribute to a suppressed immune system, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease, among other health complications. Chronic stress has significant negative effects on every aspect of our health.

The Stress Response System

  • From a physiological perspective, stress is the body’s biological response to a perceived threat. The stress response system sends chemicals and hormones surging through your body. That’s what causes your heart rate to increase or your stomach to flutter. It’s your body reacting to something it thinks could be dangerous. Stress alerts your brain and energizes your body. It gives you the heightened awareness you need to combat the perceived threat. The hypothalamus sends nerve and hormone signals to your adrenal glands. This causes the adrenal glands to release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones are nature’s way of increasing your chances of survival.


What is Mindfulness?

What is Mindfulness, and what are the benefits of it? 

  • Mindfulness teaches us how to be present in the moment. It is the practice of bringing our awareness to what is happening right now, with an attitude of compassion and curiosity. It helps us free our minds from dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. There are many different ways to practice mindfulness, and it is something that can be incorporated into everyday life, at any time.
  • The benefits of mindfulness are vast. The body of scientific research illustrating the positive effects of mindfulness training on mental health and wellbeing - at the level of the brain as well as at the level of behavior - grows steadily more well-established: it improves attention, reduces stress, and results in better emotion regulation and an improved capacity for compassion and empathy.
  • It can be helpful to think about mindfulness as a muscle. Just like we need consistent training to gain physical muscle and keep our bodies healthy, we need consistent training and mental exercises to keep our minds healthy. If you’ve ever tried to practice mindfulness - to pay attention on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment - you may understand how challenging this can be. Incorporating mindfulness into our daily lives needs to be a deliberate exercise; the more we practice mindfulness, the easier it becomes to incorporate it more frequently and the more we will reap the benefits.
  • Some mindfulness techniques will have you focus on a single repetitive action or movement. Other techniques will have you follow and release internal thoughts and sensations. Others will show you how to apply mindfulness to activities like exercising and eating. There is no single way to practice mindfulness: just as you might incorporate a variety of exercises to keep your body physically healthy and strong, it is helpful to consider a variety of techniques to build your mindfulness muscle.
  • Free Meditation Apps: 
  • Come learn new mindfulness skills and techniques, and meet like-minded peers at our NEW program, Mindful Mondays! Mindful Mondays will be held just about every Monday during the 2023-2024 academic year from 12:00-12:30 PM and from 3-3:30. Every session, students will learn and practice a new mindfulness skill and will also engage in an activity associated with that skill. 

Mindfulness vs Meditation

  • If mindfulness is a muscle, then meditation is a technique we can use to build our muscle. Mindful meditation has been used to treat stress, anxiety and depression for a very long time. Just like when you are lifting weights to build your muscle strength, you have to start out with “lighter” weights when you are building your mindfulness muscle. One example of light weights for mindfulness training are short, guided meditations when you are in a relaxed, comfortable state. Heavier weights are longer meditations or less ideal conditions in which you’re practicing mindfulness.
  • Try some brief breathing exercises for reducing stress and for relaxation.

    Breathing Prompts:

    Ocean | 2 Minute Guided Meditation | Kauai Beach

    Mountains | take a deep breath

    Forest |

  • Visit the “Building your Mental Health Toolbox” section for more in-depth descriptions of a variety of techniques to help you build your mindfulness muscle.

BC C.H.A.T.S: Helpful Tips for a Tough Conversation

  • BC C.H.A.T.S. provides an educational framework to understand a component of our comprehensive approach to mental health promotion and suicide prevention on campus. This is to empower people with basic talking points on what to say or do to dispel the fear related to conversations about suicide prevention. Our intention is to make you feel more comfortable with an uncomfortable subject because it’s one that very few people feel qualified to address, but it’s a critical conversation that we need to have in order to feel ready and able to effectively engage with students with anyone struggling. Our program is designed to educate you so that you can feel confident in your ability to intervene properly and refer when necessary.

  • A core component of BC C.H.A.T.S. is QPR, an evidence-based suicide prevention gatekeeper training, which is being offered across campus for the Boston College community. Visit the next section to learn more about how to participate in a QPR workshop.

What does it stand for?

BC C.H.A.T.S. is an acronym to help you remember the important steps when approaching a conversation with someone who is struggling or who you are concerned about:

C = communicate concern

  • When you tell someone you are concerned about them, instead of making general statements, point out specific changes you’ve noticed.

    • Use “I” statements instead of “you”:
    • “I’ve noticed…”
    • “I’m worried about…”
    • “I feel like…”

  • It is okay to be honest about your own nerves, your own emotions, that are coming up - it can be really helpful to share how difficult it is for you to have this conversation:

    • “I’m [a bit / really] nervous about bringing this up but…”

  • When sharing your concerns, make it clear that asking for help is a sign of strength and not weakness

H = have empathy and compassion.

  • When you are listening to someone, make sure you can be fully present. Listen, reflect, and help them feel heard. If you are running to something or are in a busy area, it may not be the best time to engage in this conversation. Do your best to find a private, comfortable space with no distractions.

  • Use clarifying questions to get clear on what they’re saying, trying to say, or avoiding saying:

    • “Tell me more about that.”
    • “What does that mean to you?”
    • “Can you expand on that?”

  • When someone is sharing with you, make it your goal to listen to their reasons for feeling hopeless or in pain, and do so without judgment. It is not your job to fix it. The most helpful thing you can do throughout this whole exchange is be there. In that moment, it is your job to listen and empathically respond:

    • “Thank you for sharing this with me”
    • “You are so brave”
    • “You are not alone”
    • “I’m right here with you”
    • “I know this can be hard to talk about, I’m here to listen”

A = ask questions, including directly about suicide. 

  • Let them know you want to hear more about how they’re feeling and what they’re going through. Listen actively by expressing curiosity and interest. 

  • Use clarifying questions to get clear on what they’re saying, trying to say, or avoiding saying:

    • “Tell me more about that”
    • “What does that mean to you?”
    • “Can you expand on that?”

  • Through our gatekeeper training, you will learn the steps involved in recognizing the signs of someone experiencing intense emotional or psychological distress and how to ask the question with someone who may be experiencing a suicidal crisis. If you are noticing warning signs, it is important to ask directly about suicide. This is not going to put the idea in their head. There are direct and indirect ways to ask the question. 

    • “Have you ever wanted to stop living?”
    • “Do you ever wish you could go to sleep and never wake up?”
    • “When someone is experiencing as much distress as you are describing to me, they sometimes think of hurting themselves. Are you feeling this way?”
    • “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?”
    • “Are you thinking about suicide?”

  • Ask about what other supports they have been or are currently utilizing, and/or who else they have talked to about any of what they’re sharing with you.

  • What can you say if they tell you they’re thinking about suicide?

    • Stay calm - just because someone is having thoughts of suicide, it doesn’t always mean they’re in immediate danger. Take the time to calmly listen to what they have to say, and ask some follow-up questions.

      • “How often are you having these thoughts?”
      • “When it gets really bad, what do you do?”
      • “What scares you about these thoughts?”
      • “What do you need to do to feel safe?”

  • Reassure them that help is available, and that these feelings are a signal that it’s time to talk to a mental health professional.

T = take initiative

  • Please note: the Dean of Students office contains a plethora of information and valuable resources about identifying and responding to students of concern. 
  •  While you want to resist the urge to fix or give advice, it is important to encourage this person to connect to help. You are being a great person in having this supportive conversation - but you are not a mental health professional. Your goal is to connect them to proper resources.

    • “I want to help, but I’m not a professional. Let’s connect you with   someone whose job it is to help people move through hard things like this. I will do it with you”
    •  “I hear that you’re really struggling, and I think it would be really  beneficial for you to talk to someone who can help you get through this”
    • “You know, therapy isn’t just for serious, ‘clinical’ problems. It can help any of us process any challenges we’re facing - and we all  face serious stuff sometimes”
    •  “I really think talking to someone can help you gain some   perspective, and keep things from getting worse” 

  •  Let them know that you will stay with them until they get help. Depending on your own capacity, you may choose to offer to be a part of the outreach and referral process - sometimes making that first moment of contact to professional help can be the hardest. 

    • “I could call or walk with you to your appointment, then we could have coffee afterwards”
    • “There are some national resources available. Why don’t we call or text ‘988’ together?”
    • learn more about signs & levels of distress and corresponding response options, visit the next section, ‘QPR’, and sign up for a gatekeeper training workshop.

  • If the person you care about has told you they’re thinking of suicide, it’s a warning sign they should speak with a professional immediately. Do not promise to keep their thoughts of suicide a secret.

  • Please note: if someone indicates any thoughts or plans regarding suicide, past or present, it is imperative that proper steps are taken to care for this individual, which includes contacting the office of the Dean of Students to report these concerns. Call 617-552-3470 or visit to learn more about mandatory reporting & to complete the form.

S = seek support

  • Know what you need. These are hard conversations and hard situations to be a part of, and it is important that you are checking in with yourself: what are your own limits regarding how much capacity you have for this conversation? This will inform how you engage in a situation.

  • This is also a good time to turn to your mental health toolkit and engage in some practices that help you care for yourself in the way that you need. Visit the “Building Your Mental Health Toolkit” section below to learn more.

  • Don’t forget to utilize the resources available on campus for yourself! It is important that you find support, ideally a colleague, mentor, or supervisor - someone you can debrief and connect with afterward. You are not meant to hold this alone. 

  • Understand and embrace the boundaries of your role. Knowing what we can do, and what we can’t do, is crucial to maintaining our own health & well-being:

    • We can: listen, be clear and direct, connect them to help, and follow-up
    • We can’t: force someone to want help, fix it, keep it secret, or do a formal risk assessment

Curious about more?

Attend a QPR gatekeeper training to learn how to apply these steps in real situations.

QPR Training Request Form

Mental Health Awareness Programming on Campus

Effective programming requires a combination of efforts. The CSW’s comprehensive plan for mental health promotion and suicide prevention is made up of several components, each a broad goal that will be advanced through an array of activities, including awareness programming and events for students. Examples of current and upcoming projects include:

  • An annual mental health and wellness fair in the fall to spark dialogue about mental health promotion and suicide prevention on campus. Students engage in interactive activities at peer-run booths while learning about on- and off-campus resources in a fun, inviting environment with free food and entertainment, prizes and giveaways, and more!
  • Mental health awareness week = to kickoff the start of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, the CSW will host a week of events in collaboration with student organizations across the University. If you are interested in being involved, please contact our Assistant Director of Mental Health & Wellness, Nicole Jeter, at!
  • Mental health toolkit workshops = an essential component of caring for our mental health is having the space and time to reflect on our own needs, identifying supports and barriers that influence our ability to tend to our mental health. We will continue to offer opportunities for students to learn and engage in practices throughout the semester to build their mental health toolkits, including a variety of mindfulness workshops.
  • Educational presentations = the CSW staff are available to present on topics related to mental health to groups or classrooms that request it. If you are interested in learning more about our offerings, please reach out for additional information. If you are interested in partaking in a suicide prevention training workshop, please visit the “QPR gatekeeper training” box to learn more.

Managing Stress

Recognizing when it’s unhealthy or too much

  • We want to move away from this mindset that “stress is bad”. In fact, stress is a very important and natural part of the human experience, and it is necessary. Stress is what allowed our ancestors to survive. It helped them avoid dangerous situations like predator attacks. Without stress, the human species would not have been able to evolve and reproduce. 
  • A mild or moderate amount of stress can actually be good for you. It can be a source of motivation and excitement. It can even improve performance. But stress should always be temporary - prolonged stress is neither normal, necessary, nor healthy for anyone. In fact, experiencing significant amounts of stress for long periods of time has significant negative effects on every aspect of our health. 
  • Although some stress can be good for you, it is important to be able to identify the negative effects of stress. There are many different physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral symptoms of stress to watch out for. Symptoms of stress can look different in different people.
  • When stress is prolonged, ignored, or poorly managed it may lead to more serious medical conditions. So how do we manage stress? First, it’s necessary to identify its sources.

Identifying Sources of Stress

  • The majority of us are aware that we feel stressed, but we don’t always know what’s causing it. Identifying the source of your stress allows you to better handle it. We can’t always control the things that cause us stress, but we can definitely control how we respond and react to it.
  • In order to determine the source of your stress, you first need to develop self-awareness. What makes you tick? What frustrates you? What patterns are you stuck in that could benefit from evaluation? Once you are aware of patterns that could use some adjustment, you can begin to change them. Changing your patterns of negative thinking will eventually change your behaviors and reactions to stressors. 
  • It’s also important to have goals and dreams. Exploring your passions in life can provide a sense of direction and motivation. A sense of direction allows you to feel a greater amount of control and purpose in your life. Support systems provide the reassurance and validation you need to navigate stressful situations. It is important to have friends and family you can talk to about things that cause stress. 

Basic Stress Management Techniques

  • The goal of managing stress shouldn’t be to rid yourself of stress entirely. Remember that some forms of stress are actually good for you. It’s also impossible to completely rid your life of all stress. That’s okay, because eliminating stress is not the goal.
  • The goal is to understand and manage stress so that you don’t suffer negative consequences. Once you have identified and learned how to avoid your triggers, you can learn how to cope with the stressors you can’t avoid. Finally, you can begin to build your mental health toolbox with a variety of internal resources and skills so that you don’t need to cope, but instead are able to actively move through potentially stressful situations without that stress getting stuck in your body. 
  • In order to combat the negative effects of stress, you need to activate your body’s relaxation response. This is the state of deep rest that decreases the stress response, slows down your breathing and heart rate, and lowers your blood pressure. It is what brings your mind and body back into balance. Techniques like deep breathing, meditation, visualization, yoga, tai chi, and rhythmic exercises are excellent relaxation techniques for stress relief.
  • Take a look at the next section for a more in-depth look at stress relief ideas. Keep in mind that no one relaxation technique works for everyone. We all process stress in our own way. It is important to build our mental health toolkit with a variety of techniques so that we can see what works in response to different stressors. 

Koru Mindfulness

  • Koru mindfulness is an evidence-based curriculum specifically designed for teaching mindfulness, meditation, and stress management to college students and other young adults. The curriculum consists of three components: 

    • Koru Basic = an introduction to mindfulness and meditation, taught as a weekly, 75-minute class over 4 weeks by a trained and certified Koru Teacher.
    • Koru 2.0 = an “advanced” class for students who have completed Koru Basic and are eager for more mindfulness. This course also consists of weekly, 75-minute classes taught over 4 weeks.
    • Koru Retreat = a half-day silent, mindfulness retreat for students wanting to try a more intense mindfulness experience.

  • Koru’s randomized, controlled trial results show:
    • Students reported feeling more calm
    • Students improved their mindfulness
    • Students felt more rested
    • Students had greater self-compassion
  • To access the full data, see A Randomized Controlled Trial of Koru: A Mindfulness Program for College Students and Other Emerging Adults in the May 9, 2014 issue of the Journal of American College Health.

Koru class sign-ups

  • Continue to check back for updates on new class offerings. If you are interested in more information or have any questions, contact Judy Oxford, or 617-552-6833

QPR Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Training for Students, Faculty, and Staff

QPR Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Training

  • QPR is a 1.5 hour evidence-based suicide prevention training developed by the QPR institute. QPR teaches how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and to follow the 3 simple steps of QPR - question, persuade, and refer. QPR helps save lives, and you can be part of this movement to reduce stigma and offer hope to those in crisis.

Key components covered in training:

  • How to Question, Persuade, and Refer someone who may be in a suicidal crisis
  • How to get help for yourself or learn more about preventing suicide
  • How to properly identify and respond to the warning signs of serious psychological distress
  • How to get help for someone in crisis

QPR training sessions are held throughout the semester and are open to all students, faculty, and staff.

Open Session Dates For Students

  • Thursday, October 12th from 3-4:15 pm
  • Wednesday, November 1st from 10:30 am -12 pm
  • Friday, November 3rd from 1:00-2:30 pm
  • Tuesday, November 7th from 1-2:30 pm
  • Friday, November 10th from 12-1:30 pm

Fill out this form to sign up

Open Session Dates for Faculty/Staff

  • Friday, October 13th from 1-2:30 pm 
  • Thursday, November 2nd from 12-1:30 pm
  • Friday, November 10th from 1-2:30 pm 
  • Tuesday, November 14th from 12-1:30 pm 
  • Thursday, November 16th from 3-4:14 pm 

Fill out this form to sign up


Interested in scheduling a specific date for your group? The Boston College QPR team is available to conduct a training session for classes, department meetings, student organizations, and more! Fill out the QPR Request Form and a member of our team will reach out.

QPR Training Request Form


  • Please contact Nicole Jeter, Assistant Director, Mental Health & Wellness, for more information: | 617.552.6973

Building Your Own Mental Health Toolkit

Our office operates with a holistic and inclusive approach to health. We believe that students deserve the opportunity to meet their own health needs, define wellness for themselves, and to listen to and honor their bodies, minds, and souls, to cultivate a life that is balanced and sustainable. To that end, we know that we cannot adequately address mental health without considering the multiple dimensions of wellness. In this section, you will find a plethora of ideas and resources to help you begin to build your own mental health toolkit, with the goal of equipping you with the foundational skills to sustain your wellness toolbox over time.


Think of this as a toolkit that you should constantly be trying to access if not optimize on a regular basis because all of these tools raise the buoyancy - the resiliency - of your overall system.


Stress and trauma, the difficult things we experience, build up inside of our central nervous system. Just like they build up inside of us, we want to be able to get them out of our system. We want to do activities or exercises that release and rewire that stress and trauma from our system.


There is no one size fits all approach to taking care of ourselves: there are a variety of ways we can actively release and rewire the stress and trauma out of our systems and start to naturally heal. The skills you will find in this section are just a handful of examples to get you started as you begin building your own toolkit.




When to Seek More Help