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May 4, 2020

MSU experts addressing critical issues for mental health awareness month

Mental Health Awareness Month spans the month of May and for many people, 2020 has proven to be a challenging year when it comes to coping with anxiety during the global health pandemic. 

Experts from Michigan State University are available to discuss a breadth of issues related to mental health, spanning from how essential workers and first responders can cope with extreme stress to how live-in partners can quarantine for weeks on end while adhering to "stay home, stay safe" orders.

These experts include:

Farha Abbasi, a psychiatrist in the College of Osteopathic Medicine, specializes in providing culturally appropriate care to Muslim patients and communities. She can discuss the psychological effects and implications of the COVID-19 pandemic among different cultures, as well as the ramifications of using cultural labels to describe the coronavirus. Abbasi also serves as chair of the City of Lansing’s mental health task force. Abbasi can be reached at (517) 353-4363,

Eric Achtyes is an associate professor and director of MSU’s Division of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine. He is a staff psychiatrist and researcher at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, whose study includes improving treatment for patients with schizophrenia and depression. Achtyes can be reached at

Bengt Arnetz is professor and chairperson of MSU's Department of Family Medicine. Arnetz can speak to the mental readiness of first responders who handle emergency situations including police officers, firefighters, paramedics and 911 dispatchers. Arnetz can be reached at (616) 234-0966,

William Chopik is a social psychologist who studies how relationships — and the people in them — change over time and across situations. Chopik’s work has explored the health and happiness of married couples, stress and its impact on relationships, LGBTQ relationships and how relationships change as we age. Chopik can be reached at (517) 355-6645,

Julia Felton is an assistant professor and licensed clinical psychologist in the Division of Public Health. Her research looks at the impact of the environment, stress and parenting on the development of mental and behavioral health problems (including opioid use) and interventions to prevent these difficulties. Felton can be reached at (810) 600-9125,

Kimberly Fenn, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology, directs MSU’s Sleep and Learning Lab. She investigates the effect of sleep and sleep deprivation on mental health and memory. Among Fenn’s findings: Sleep deprivation is linked to false confessions and people learn while they sleep. Fenn can be reached at (517) 432-6258,

Dawn Goldstein is director of the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program in the College of Nursing. Goldstein is in the Army National Guard and has extensive experience with mental health issues affecting veterans, as well as those suffering from addictions, especially opioids. Goldstein can be reached at (517) 353-2183,

Angela Hall, associate professor of human resources and labor relations, specializes in workplace culture. Hall leads courses in organizational behavior, human resources, leadership, employee training and development, and has most recently discussed how employees — and employers — cope with stress during times of crisis. Hall can be reached at (517) 432-3446,

Jennifer Johnson, the C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health, conducts NIH-funded research that looks at the effectiveness of mental health and substance use interventions for vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women, prisoners and jail detainees. Johnson can be reached at (810) 600-5669,

Jed Magen, chair of the Department of Psychiatry in the Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine and Human Medicine, specializes in childhood/adolescent psychiatry and the psychological effects of opioid and alcohol use. He can discuss these dependency issues, as well as feelings of anxiety during times of crisis. Magen can be reached at (517) 353-4363,

Jason Moser, associate professor in the Department of Psychology, specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety-related problems with a specific focus on exposure-based therapies for obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Moser can be reached at (517) 355-2159,

Natalie Moser is a licensed psychologist whose expertise includes the treatment of children and families. She has a background in pediatric health psychology and works with children who have medical conditions or pain. Moser created a group therapy program for children who have been victims of bullying — Getting Back Up Again. Moser can be reached at (517) 355-9564,

Cara Poland, a physician and certified addiction specialist, can discuss the current opioid crisis, as well as the lack of doctors in Michigan who are certified in the area of addiction. She is currently leading a program with MSU, the University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Health that will train more physicians as specialists by streamlining the certification process. Poland can be reached at (616) 486.5249,

Joanne Riebschleger, associate professor of social work, is an international expert in mental health literacy among children and young adults. Her research particularly focuses on children, teens and young adults, including those living with a family member with a mental illness. Riebschleger can be reached at (517) 353-9746,

Robert Smith, a University Distinguished Professor in medicine and psychiatry, can discuss potential solutions that can help arm primary care physicians with better mental health training. He can also discuss the current medical environment, which often can't effectively handle the increasingly complex world of mental health care. Smith can be reached at

Katharine Thakkar, assistant professor of psychology with clinical and research expertise in schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. Her specific research interest is in understanding how changes in cognitive functioning, as well as brain function and structure, may give rise to the symptoms of psychotic disorders. Thakkar can be reached at (517) 884-8489,

Andrea Wittenborn, associate professor of human development and family studies and an expert on improving outcomes of treatment for depression. She can discuss couple therapy and depression; depression among men; and developing and evaluating treatment for depression, as well as testing methods of personalizing treatment to fit the needs of a given patient. Wittenborn can be reached at (517) 432-2263,

By: Caroline Brooks

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