As we entered 2020, Mental Health America (MHA) was gearing up for yet another amazing Annual Conference in June in the heart of Washington, DC. The venue, programs and speakers were all in place to make it one of the best events yet.
Then our entire world literally changed in weeks as the COVID-19 pandemic raced across the globe. Racial tensions escalated and boiled over. Our communities face stress and distress that impacts every aspect of daily life – including mental health.
MHA knew it needed to adapt – to address in real time the present issues related to COVID-19 and racial inequities – as well as adjust to the “new normal” of socially distancing and remote working.
2020 AND 2021 ANNUAL CONFERENCE NEWS
Our Annual Conference needed to adapt as well. So, MHA wanted to share with you the changes we have made – and are exciting for you to join us and spread the word!
- MHA has decided to take its original theme of “From Resiliency to Recovery” – program, speakers, and all – and move it to 2021. Those dates are June 9-12, 2021 (Pre-Con day June 9, main conference June 10-12). All breakout speakers who were confirmed available for this September automatically have a spot on the agenda. MHA will assess the program in late fall to determine if a new Call for Proposals is necessary.
- MHA’s 2020 Annual Conference will now take place this September 3-4, 2020 and is themed COVID-19, Mental Health, and the Need for Equity. We are currently planning for a virtual component and will have an in-person option at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill if deemed safe and District of Columbia regulations allow. We will host a Pre-Conference Day for MHA Affiliates on September 2.
SO WHY THIS 2020 THEME?
Over the last few months, the world was thrown into a global pandemic. As the number of cases of COVID-19 increased, so did the associated experiences of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. The mental health effects of COVID-19 are as important to address as are the physical health effects – but we know that not everyone has equal access to care. And for the one in five who already have mental health conditions – or the one in two who are at risk of developing them – we need to take personal, professional, and policy measures now to address them. And we need to do it an equitable way.
MHA has been monitoring its Online Screening Program throughout the pandemic. As of early June, more than 88,000 additional people have developed symptoms of anxiety or depression because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, more than 21,000 depression screeners reported thinking of suicide or self-harm on more than half the days – a number that suggests a coming wave of mental impacts that could be of epidemic proportions. What is most troubling is that the numbers – consistent with the numbers from the U.S. Government’s Census Bureau – demonstrate not only that there is not yet any relief from the mental health impacts of the pandemic, but that the impacts actually seem to be spreading and accelerating.
In addition, COVID-19 brought to light what many in the health care and social justice communities already knew – that Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) are disproportionately negatively impacted and are dying at much higher rates. Adding to that the systemic racism that so many people of color bear every day, the trauma and mental health implications are significant. Past trauma is prominently mentioned as the reason that people experience serious mental health conditions today – and nearly half of those taking a mental health screening with MHA who received a moderate to severe result since Spring 2020 cited trauma as the reason.
The last few months have changed everything – and the world is looking at “a new normal.” Our 2020 Annual Conference – now with a virtual component – will discuss it all.
From increases in depression and anxiety rates, to adjusting workplaces and employee mental health, to addressing disproportionate inequities due to systemic barriers and historical adversity – MHA is talking about it.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for updates, program details, and new virtual registration prices. If you have already purchased a registration and don’t want to participate in September, you can receive a full refund by emailing Jennifer Cheang at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have specific questions about the 2020 conference program or current sponsorship opportunities, please reach out to Erin Wallace email@example.com.
Keep up to date on the latest at www.mhanational.org/annualconference.