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2019 Conference: About the Theme


About the Theme

Why this theme?

We chose the theme Dueling Diagnoses: Mental Health and Chronic Conditions in Children and Adults in response to unmet needs from across the health and mental health community. There is a lack of uniformity across the health spectrum in how illnesses are categorized and deemed as chronic diseases and chronic conditions. Not only does this create confusion, but it may lead professionals across the spectrum to focus on specific illnesses and disregard other aspects of the person being treated, including co-occurring issues like mental health conditions and broader societal conditions such as poverty, trauma, and racism. To effectively treat an individual, we must look at the whole person, which means examining the connections that exist between traditional chronic physical conditions and mental health concerns.

In deciding this theme, we were thoughtful in characterizing the diagnoses themselves as “dueling,” because once a condition is diagnosed, it often becomes not just the primary diagnosis for health care providers, but the primary lens through which that individual is seen. And when a second condition is observed, there is often unnecessary tension among the providers, the individual and sometimes their family, as to what diagnosis takes precedence and who should take the lead in organizing and managing care and support.

Health systems and related stakeholders must commit to understanding and integrating the individual, their needs, and the dueling conditions which impact their lives to effectively identify tools and strategies that reduce the tension among providers of care, services, and supports, and allow the whole individual to emerge along a pathway to recovery.

Our Conference Goals

  • Understanding underlying factors that lead to both physical and mental health concerns in children and adults; 
  • Recognizing and distinguishing the symptoms and characteristics of the mental health conditions that may be present in people with physical, intellectual, and cognitive conditions and limitations; and
  • Developing and identifying strategies that can be used by individuals, advocates, and providers alike, across conditions to work on behalf of the whole person and move everyone along the pathway to recovery.