The Friends of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA is a volunteer group, dedicated to supporting and enhancing state-of-the-art research and treatment for illnesses of the mind and brain and educating the public about mental health issues in order to raise awareness reduce stigma.


Founded 11 years ago, The Friends began hosting small educational salon events about mental health issues in board member’s living rooms.  Preeminent scientists from the Semel Institute presented programs on topics such as Depression, Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, Autism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Addiction, Teen Depression, Aging and Memory, and Alzheimer’s diseae. The programs quickly gained in popularity and in 2006, the decision was made to move the series, now called the Open Mind, to UCLA in order to accommodate larger audiences and as a public service to the community.  In keeping with the Friends mission to educate the public about mental health issues, the programs were open to the public at no charge. Since that time, The Friends has hosted more than 70 Open Mind programs featuring presentations by such luminaries and thought-leaders as:  Dr. Temple Grandin; Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Pulitzer Prize winning authors, Ron Suskind and Dr. Jared Diamond, National Book Award Winner, Dr. Andrew Solomon; renowned author and psychiatrist, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison; singer/songwriter, Judy Collins;  and the late Senator George McGovern.  The Open Mind series has also featured documentary and feature films such as The Aviator, THIN, Touched with Fire, Art and Craft, and HBO’s Olive Kitteridge.


Realizing the importance of supporting the next generation of neuroscience researchers who represent the future in the development of new and improved treatments for mental illnesses and disorders, in 2006, The Friends awarded their first Friends Scholar Award. This competitive scholarship is awarded bi-annually to outstanding young scientists doing state-of-the art research to improve the lives of the millions of people whose lives are affected by mental illness. Funds for the scholarship are raised through individual donations, foundation grants, and fundraising events.  As competition for young researchers is intense and growing, The Friends Scholar Award also allows the Semel Institute to remain competitive with private universities, which often have access to much greater resources than even a top-ranked public university such as UCLA, in attracting the brightest postdoctoral candidates.  In 2016, together with the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Board of Advisors, The Friends supported the M.D., Ph.D. Psychiatry Research Training Residency Program. The Friends has also provided funding for special projects such as the purchase of a Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Device (TMS), the latest FDA approved treatment for depression and for Travel Grants that enable young researchers to attend professional conferences.


In 2013, The Friends hosted its first gala, Music and the Mind that raised over $500,000 for the Friends Scholar Program.  The event honored philanthropists, Renee and Meyer Luskin; Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Dr. Andrew Leuchter; and actor, Eric McCormack. The following year, the  Food and Friends at Bouchon luncheon featuring  master chef, Thomas Keller, was a resounding success, tickets selling out in just one day. In  2015, the second gala event honored UCLA  Chancellor Gene Block, Congressman Patrick Kennedy, and Homeland creators, Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, and raised over $1,000,000  in support of The Friends Scholar Program. In 2016, The Friends joined with the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital Board of Advisors to sponsor and present a second luncheon event, Food and Friends at Vibiana that raised over $400,000 for the M.D., Ph.D Psychiatry Research Training Residency Program.



Copyright 2016, The Friends of the Semel Institute

Copyright 2017, The Friends of the Semel Institute