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In order to help young people combat the growing mental health crisis brought on by the pandemic, Yale University is now offering a variation of its most popular online course to more than 500 low-income high school students across the US at no cost.
Yale psychology professor Laurie Santos created the online course – called “The Science of Well Being” – in 2018. It was introduced the same year as her in-person version of the course, “Psychology and the Good Life,” which attracted more than 1,200 undergraduates, or about one in four students on campus, in its first semester, according to a statement released by Yale.
Santos, who lived among students as the head of Yale’s Silliman College, said the idea for the course came to her after she saw firsthand the growing levels of depression and anxiety her students were experiencing.
“This is a really challenging time, and that means that students need to learn new strategies to protect their mental health,” Santos said in the release. “Our goal is to equip students with scientifically validated strategies for living a more satisfying life, while also creating opportunities for high-striving low-income students and students of color to demonstrate college-readiness.”
The course – which was developed in partnership with the University of Connecticut and the National Education Equity Lab with support from the Arthur M. Blank Foundation – will “present students with scientifically validated strategies for living a more satisfying life and examine what psychological science shows about how to be happier, how to feel less stressed, and how to flourish more,” according to the university.
The first half of the course offers students insights from psychology and neuroscience about what drives happiness. The second half of the course involves behavior change exercises designed to help rewire the brain.
In March of last year, Yale began offering the online version, “The Science of Well Being,” to the public free of charge on Coursera. To date, more than 3 million people have enrolled in the course.
Now, Santos is bringing the program to the classrooms of more than 40 schools from 17 cities starting on February 2.
The online course being offered to high school students – which Yale did not release a name for – will be slightly modified from the original.
In addition to receiving access to the full course, students will also be supported by both a local teacher at their high school and a Yale Teaching Fellow.
The news comes as many across the US continue to struggle with their mental health. During the Covid-19 pandemic, one in six Americans has started therapy for the first time and nearly 90% of people in the US are experiencing one or more depressive symptom, according to Vida Health and CNN.
If you are interested in bringing “Psychology and the Good Life” to your school, visit Santos’ website for more information.
CNN’s Ryan Prior contributed to this report.