Mental and Behavioral Health Specialization | Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis
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​Mental and Behavioral Health Specialization

As a leading cause of disability worldwide, mental health issues are a critical factor in population health. The Brown School’s Mental and Behavioral Health (MBH) specialization equips students to promote mental and behavioral health through a transdisciplinary lens. MBH students prepare to protect and improve the mental health and well-being of individuals, communities and societies using public health strategies. 

Although individualized treatment by a licensed clinician remains the standard of care for people with diagnosable mental illness, the core competencies of public health optimally equip professionals for work in population-level mental and behavioral health. Through the Brown School’s Mental and Behavioral Health specialization, you can gain the skills necessary for approaching mental and behavioral health prevention, promotion and research through comprehensive, holistic and culturally sensitive frameworks.

In this specialization, you will gain advanced knowledge about the presentation, risk and correlated factors, treatment, and course of major mental and behavioral health disorders. You’ll also learn how individual, family and societal factors impact mental health and well-being and how to apply this knowledge using public health approaches to improve population mental and behavioral health. As a graduate, you’ll be prepared to develop, implement and evaluate population-level intervention and prevention programs and policies and conduct research on mental and behavioral health. 

Graduates of the specialization may pursue careers focusing on mental health prevention, research and policy within governmental, nonprofit and community health organizations, located in domestic and international settings. 





​SPECIALIZATION REQUIREMENTS (15 credit hours)

  • Fundamentals of Public Mental Health for Public Health (3 credits)
  • Public Mental Health (3 credits)
  • Transdisciplinary Problem Solving (TPS) Course (3 credits)
  • One elective course
  • Practicum with a mental and behavioral health focus (3 credits)
TPS Course Offerings Include:

  • TPS: Global Mental Health
  • TPS: Mental Health Prevention and Promotion
MBH-Focused Electives Include:

  • Epidemiology of Psychiatric Disorders Across the Lifespan
  • Addictions and Addictive Behaviors
  • Substance Use Disorders
  • Special Topics in Mental and Behavioral Health Care
  • Mental Health Policy

​PRACTICUM

The MPH program requires 360 hours of practicum. Students in the Mental and Behavioral Health specialization must complete their practicum experience in a setting where they will develop skills and experiences within the specialization. Sample practicum sites include:

  • Behavioral Health Network of Greater St. Louis
  • Global Psychiatric Epidemiology Group, Psychiatric Institute
  • St. Louis County Department of Public Health


Associate Professor Alexis Duncan, Chair of Mental and Behavioral Health Specialization

​Specialization Chair

Alexis Duncan, associate professor at the Brown School, focuses her research on interrelationships between obesity, eating disorders, and substance use disorders, as well as risk mechanisms for the development of psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders, and the effects of these disorders on psychosocial outcomes and health behaviors.  As a psychiatric epidemiologist with training in behavior genetics, Dr. Duncan’s scholarship takes a transdisciplinary approach to the understanding of mental and behavioral health, from genetics all the way to community environment. 






“You don’t have to be a therapist to have a career related to mental and behavioral health—there is plenty to be done at the group and population levels using the same Public Health approaches that we use for illnesses like cancer and diabetes. MPH students specializing in Mental and Behavioral Health will have the in-depth understanding of the nature of mental and behavioral health issues and solid foundation in Public Health skills and practices necessary to make a positive impact on population mental and behavioral health.” 


Alexis Duncan, Specialization Chair