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Huntsman Mental Health Institute to host national summit to eliminate mental health stigma

Huntsman Mental Health Institute and nearly 200 national organizations will gather for a summit on World Mental Health to create a nationwide network to eliminate mental health stigma.

Huntsman Mental Health Institute and nearly 200 national organizations will gather for a summit on World Mental Health to create a nationwide network to eliminate mental health stigma. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Huntsman Mental Health Institute and nearly 200 national organizations will gather for a summit on World Mental Health Day to create a nationwide network to eliminate mental health stigma.

The three-day Stop Stigma Together Summit will begin on Oct. 10 at Snowbird resort and will feature mental health stakeholders such as the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America and Rural Behavioral Health Institute.

The gathering will be among the first of its kind and is intended to create united messaging surrounding mental health. Key stakeholders will also discuss how to address access to care, stigma or prejudice, child and youth mental health, and workforce challenges.

"Now is the time to launch a national movement, a sustained national movement that facilitates the existing work of many wonderful organizations but really creates the opportunity for commonality of message, for the persistence of message using the strengths of all these different organizations over time," said Dr. Mark Rapaport, CEO of Huntsman Mental Health Institute.

"All these other organizations have been interested in eliminating mental health and substance use stigma, but everybody has been sort of playing their instruments in solo. Our goal is to create an orchestra. Our goal is to create, you know, that symphony of music around these issues," he continued.

While substance abuse and mental health issues have been a point of concern for many years, the severity has increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Suicide rates among youth, the number of people experiencing anxiety and depression, and levels of post-traumatic stress disorder all rose during the pandemic, according to Rapaport.

"We're the place where ... one, we're at an absolute crisis level; and two, we're at a place where — all of a sudden — other people are beginning to think about this and talk about it," said Rapaport.

The summit will represent the beginning of the creation of synchronized messaging and a nationwide network of organizations. While the summit will be the first of its kind and the first in likely a series of events, it represents a starting point for other issues in the mental health sphere.

"The focus of the summit is really on the decrease of stigma, per se, and creating a common language around that. I think in the long term, if we do that, what we can do is deal with the financial inequities that don't allow access to care," said Rapaport.

Central to the importance of establishing a nationwide network is the inclusion of a variety of voices who can weigh on how stigma is presented and perceived in different communities.

"We have consciously reached out to have partners that represent and are actively involved in the Black community, the Latino community, the Indigenous people's community, the Pacific Islander community, the LGBTQ-plus community. We are very conscious of the fact that there are higher and hidden mental health needs in these communities," said Rapaport.

While fully addressing mental health systems and stigma surrounding mental health or substance abuse disorders can be complex, doing so can change society entirely, Rapaport said.

"If we had a world where it was OK to get the help you needed, people would be more productive; people would be happier and more creative. We would also have a world where a lot of hidden costs would go away," said Rapaport. "All we need to do is to begin to have people realize that it's OK to have diseases that affect how we feel or how we think and how we proceed. ... We have treatments available to help people so people's lives can be so much richer and have so much more texture."

The Stop Stigma Together Summit will be held at Snowbird resort and will be accessible by Zoom. A complete list of organizations attending can be found here.

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Ashley Fredde covers human services and and women's issues for KSL.com. She also enjoys reporting on arts, culture and entertainment news. She's a graduate of the University of Arizona.

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