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Best online courses and resources to boost mental health awareness

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As we navigate yet another month of the COVID-19 pandemic — resulting in loss, isolation, and deep uncertainty for many — you’re far from alone if you’ve felt a huge impact on your mental health.

Just like physical health, everyone has mental health — regardless of whether you’re experiencing mental illness. And much like understanding your body, finding mental coping strategies that work for you is far from a one-size-fits-all experience. 

It’s exactly why affordable, accessible mental health education can be extremely helpful. Tools and expert knowledge on key elements of mental health — like resilience, sleep, or mental health in the workplace — can be broken down into takeaways that students can apply to their own experiences. It’s our hope that the below courses, which are taught by professionals in their fields, can bring about a better understanding of mental health at an individual level. 

Of course, online courses should not be used in place of professional mental health treatment. If you’re in search of treatment, we hope that Insider’s resources on how to find a therapist virtually, online therapy providers, and Insider’s Health Reference Library of medically-reviewed resources on identifying and treating various mental health conditions can be valuable.

Here are 12 online courses promoting mental health education and awareness:

Yale’s most popular course, all about how to be happier 

The Science of Well-Being is an online iteration of Yale’s most popular course on campus: Psychology and the Good Life. The online adaptation of the course has taken the internet by storm — with many, including Insider Reviews’ Mara Leighton, leaving with genuine takeaways about the uses and misuses of happiness in our daily lives.

According to the syllabus, the course centers around five main ideas: Common misconceptions about happiness; why our expectations are so bad; how we can overcome our biases; stuff that really makes us happy, and putting strategies into place. Each concept is presented in a low-pressure, low-stakes format that allows students to nonjudgmentally gauge whether values from the course are actually contributing to their perception of happiness.

More than 3.2 million people have enrolled in The Science of Well-Being, and it’s maintained a 4.9 rating from close to 25,000 reviewers. The course is free for anyone to audit, and an additional $49 will include graded materials and a certificate of completion. Our review of the course explains what to expect from enrolling in detail, and our conversation with Professor Laurie Santos breaks down exactly why the course is so resonant, and how you can feel happier right now.


Resilience skills specific to COVID-19

Uncertainty, unfortunately, is the word of the hour these days — and it’s completely natural for levels of uncertainty to ebb and flow as the pandemic progresses. Typically included in the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Specialization, this is a COVID-19 specific version of Dr. Karen Reivich’s course on Resilience Skills.

There are four main takeaways included in the course’s syllabus: Resilience and optimism; cognitive approaches to resilience (strategies to increase optimism and resilient thinking); managing anxiety and increasing positive emotions like gratitude; and leveraging character strengths and strengthening relationships. In other words, the course outlines research on resilience in a digestible way, allowing students to apply strategies like gratitude to their daily lives. 

Dr. Karen Reivich is the Director of Resilience Training Services within the university’s Positive Psychology Center, and Dr. Reivich’s knowledge is backed by a 4.9 rating of the course. About 35,000 students have enrolled, and the course is completely free (although it doesn’t include a certificate of completion).


Managing pandemic anxiety

As Psychology Professor Steve Joordens astutely puts it in the course description, “Never in the history of humanity have so many people been feeling intense anxiety related to COVID-19 and the world it will leave in its wake.” Factual information can often be useful in challenging anxious thoughts, and this course sets out to provide exactly that. 

From understanding anxiety as a response to managing isolation and news consumption through coping strategies, Mind Control: Managing Your Mental Health During COVID-19 aims to guide students through navigating the many stressful thoughts that (rightfully) crop up as the pandemic continues to unfold. 

The course has garnered a 4.8 rating from over 6,000 reviews, and over 142,000 students have enrolled. Like The Science of Well-Being, this course can be audited for free or purchased (with graded materials and certificate) for $49. This course is also included in Coursera Plus, which we break down in detail here.


Journaling prompts to spark growth and gratitude

This course, taught by mental health advocate and self-healing expert Yasmine Cheyenne, teaches viewers about the productivity of journaling — specifically focusing on the coping strategy’s power in creating a growth mindset. The 12 videos, all of which are around 10 minutes long, explain the importance of writing for self-care and walk you through prompts to spark creativity and self-awareness. 

The course includes a downloadable journal and is intended for experienced journalers and newbies alike. As beautifully stated by Yasmine, “We all deserve to spend time considering and creating an authentic, joyful life. Use this class to discover what that means to you—and take tangible steps toward leading a life you love.”

The course has been viewed by over 21,500 students, and it can be accessed for free through a 14-day trial of Skillshare Premium. Once two weeks have passed, a Skillshare membership can be purchased at an annual rate of $99 (billed monthly as $8.25), or at a monthly rate of $19. Currently, the annual membership is 30% off, bringing the total monthly cost down to $5.78.


Connecting drawing to self-discovery

Author and artist Meera Lee Patel’s “Create Your Own Calm” is one of our favorite journals for managing and processing anxiety, largely due to its beautiful design and humanizing approach to self-acceptance in the monolith of a year that was 2020. In this Skillshare course, Patel walks viewers through how to build drawing into their everyday lives, all while sparking self-reflection. 

The nine bite-sized videos range in topic from exploring fears to creating a color palette that’s representative of your life. In its effort to encourage drawing or writing as a daily habit, the course also aims to develop confidence within its students as they dive further into creatively expressing themselves. 

The course has received over 6,500 views, and it’s appropriate for all skill levels. Like Writing for Self-Discovery, this course is included in the 14-day trial of Skillshare Premium, requiring the purchase of a monthly or annual subscription (from $5.78/month) once the trial expires.


Adapting to the work-from-home lifestyle

For some, one of the many notable adjustments put forth by the COVID-19 pandemic was turning their homes into offices. With worlds colliding, decreased physical boundaries, and ample distractions and disruptions, fusing the workplace and the home can present its fair share of challenges. 

In this course, author and speaker Amy Brann validates the many difficulties that come with working from home, providing actionable tips within the bite-sized videos. The course materials are flexibly divided by topic, so it’s entirely feasible to only watch the videos that are relevant to you or divide the content up across more than one sitting.

The course has obtained over 11,500 viewers, and close to 11,000 LinkedIn Learning users have saved the course. LinkedIn Premium users can access the course for free, and LinkedIn Learning also includes the course in its month-long free trial. Otherwise, the course is $24.99 to purchase.


Steps towards self-compassion

Speaking to yourself with the same level of kindness that you apply to those you love is a familiar challenge to many (myself included). This summary, provided to LinkedIn Learning by e-learning platform Blinkist, synthesizes Dr. Kristin Neff’s book on the topic into 11 decipherable videos that are all about three minutes long. 

The book and the course — both of which are rooted in psychological research — explore the various causes of self-criticism and the benefits of exercising self-compassion, while also validating the universality of the experience. Although this is a condensed version of the audiobook, the full audiobook is available on both Audible and Scribd.

The Blinkist summary has received close to 5,000 viewers, and like the aforementioned LinkedIn Learning courses, it’s included in the 30-day free trial.


Developing a growth mindset

While committing to a growth mindset is not at all supplemental to mental health treatment, learning to do so can be a powerful tool in shifting perspective and navigating change. This specific course is more focused on growth mindset in the context of personal development and leadership, although instructor Gemma Leigh Roberts has a professional and educational background in psychology. 

Using a psychological framework, the series is broken up into three themes: the power of a growth mindset, your growth mindset in action, and nurturing your growth mindset. The series of under-five-minute videos within each module transparently break down each of these concepts — including lessons on defining and identifying the growth mindset, encouraging flexibility in the mind, and adapting to change. 

Over 59,000 viewers have taken the course, which can either be taken through LinkedIn Learning’s month-long free trial or purchased for $29.99.


A crash course on sleep

One-third of US adults find getting the nightly recommended amount of sleep to be a challenge, and as one of them, I recognize that understanding the importance of sleep — and the detriment that the absence of it can cause in the long term — can often compound the anxiety felt surrounding the topic. That said, while a better understanding of sleep habits can’t necessarily curb sleep deprivation on its own, coping strategies can be effective in creating healthier sleep for many. 

Taught by a handful of expert faculty members from the University of Michigan, this teach-out explores sleep at both an individual and a societal level. Through a mix of videos, articles, and discussion prompts, students are equipped with practical coping mechanisms to incorporate more sleep into their nightly routines and empower their communities to have a better understanding of the importance of sleep. 

The course is completely free, including all materials and a certificate of completion. It’s also received a 4.6 rating overall from 160 reviewers, and the sole (yet important) criticism of the course is that some who came in more experienced on the subject didn’t feel that they took away any new material. 


A course on managing mental health and stress while at home 

Stress and mental health can often impact one another, especially in current circumstances. This course from Coventry University zeroes in on workplace stress at both an individual and organizational level, analyzing its influence on overall mental health. 

The course primarily focuses on stress in the workplace, but many of the research and skills taught can be useful for identifying, measuring, and managing stress outside of work as well. Although a portion of the material is dedicated to performance coaching at work, skills like identifying signs of stress and exploring mental health interventions can potentially be applicable both professionally and personally. The course is also a part of FutureLearn’s Thrive at Home series, which is designed to alleviate many of the challenges that the pandemic has brought into the home (like maintaining work-life balance and finding motivation). 

Unlimited access to the course (with all materials and a certificate of completion) is available free of charge, and the course maintains a 4.8 star rating with all 300+ reviewers denoting three stars or above. 


A solid starting point for workplace mental health

This course hub was created back in May 2020 for Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, though it remains as relevant as ever. It focuses on three main takeaways: improving individual understanding of mental health; addressing the stigma around suicide and increasing support, and understanding and supporting the mental health of loved ones — all of which are crucial right now.

The 18 courses featured in the hub span across multiple topics in overall health and mental health, with courses dedicated to specific mental health conditions, age groups, and psychology at large. All included courses have received a 4.4 rating or higher with a maximum time commitment of six hours per week, and many are completely free.


Gratitude 101

Gratitude is a key tenet of positive psychology, and as this University of Michigan course describes, there’s scientific support of gratitude playing a key role in managing mental health and building resilience. The course focuses on gratitude as a daily practice, explaining how habits that incorporate thankfulness can look different for everyone (but remain important).

The course is unfortunately unavailable at the moment, though FutureLearn users can opt into receiving an email when the course does become available again. In the meantime, a preview video of the course is available, which actually features the aforementioned professor of The Science of Well-Being, Laurie Santos. 

When the course does become available again, it is completely free to receive all materials and a certificate of completion. Though the course seems to be relatively new, it’s received a 4.8 rating thus far.

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