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2020 Call For Workshop Proposals

Man speaking in front of crowd


MHA’s 2020 Annual Conference: From Resiliency to Recovery will take place in Washington, DC on June 11-13, 2020. MHA’s conference brings together hundreds of MHA affiliates, peers, providers, government officials, media and more from across the country to discuss important and emerging mental health issues.

Why this theme?

At MHA, we work every day on addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of all Americans. At the heart of everything we do is the belief in the strength and resiliency of the individual, communities, the power of peers, and that recovery is possible.

It’s important when working towards recovery of mental illnesses and substance use disorders, we understand the root causes. We know that trauma can greatly impact a person’s mental health - whether it occurs in childhood or as an adult – and the effects of trauma can last for a lifetime. We know that often substance use disorders can also coexist with mental illnesses. We know caregivers and peers can play an integral role in recovery. And we know that if we focus on early identification and care for those who need it, we can change the trajectory of lives.

What We're Looking For

For our 2020 Annual Conference, we are looking for dynamic content that aligns with the following conference objectives:

  • We will examine the individual’s capacity to thrive amid adversity – and how communities are coming together to help address these issues.
  • We’ll talk about the recovery model in mental health care - centered on the belief that individuals with mental health conditions can lead full, rewarding, self-directed lives - and how peer support can be an effective and essential element of recovery-oriented mental health systems.
  • We’ll focus on cognitive, emotional and behavioral effects of childhood trauma, their long lasting impacts into adulthood, and how research shows trauma can cause permanent changes in the structure and chemical activity of a growing brain;
  • We’ll talk about how racism, anti-immigrant bias, anti-LGBTQ+ prejudice, and other forms of discrimination can impact mental health and well-being;
  • We’ll dive into the principles of trauma-informed care – and how safety, trustworthiness, peer support, collaboration, empowerment, and cultural sensitivity must be incorporated into life-long services and supports for victims of trauma; and
  • We’ll learn about the work that communities are developing and implementing in response to the specific barriers experienced by diverse individuals dealing with mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

Deadline for Submission: November 29, 2019 at 5PM ET

Notification of Acceptance: January 17, 2020

Workshop Format

**New this year** In addition to seeking applications for 60-minutes workshop sessions, you now can submit to be considered for 10-minute TED-style talk on the main ballroom stage. You must indicate which type of presentation you are applying for.

To be considered for a workshop, presentations must: 

  • Align with one or several conference goals; 
  • Be interactive;
  • Allow time for group discussion;
  • Fit within a 60-minute timeframe; and
  • Be conducted with no more than three presenters.

To be considered for a TED-style talk, speakers must:

  • Be comfortable being on stage - without notes - in front of hundreds of people;
  • Align their presentation with one or several conference goals; 
  • Fit their presentation within a 10-minute timeframe; and
  • Be engaging.

Please note: Workshop attendance can be anywhere from 20–100 people per session. MHA will do its best to ensure each session is full but cannot guarantee a specific head count.

Sample Presentation Titles (Samples only, not indicative of final agenda.)

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences and impacts on mental health
  • The role of peers in recovery
  • Positive psychology and childhood mental health
  • The impacts on the front lines: first responders and mental health
  • Comedy and its role in recovery
  • Intersection of race, trauma, poverty, mental health
  • The science behind how trauma changes the brain
  • Using technology on your path to recovery

Submission Instructions and Guidelines

Online submissions only (click “Apply Online” below). The webform is the preferred method. If you have trouble completing the form, please email your application to Erin Wallace at Per the webform, applicants must submit biographies and contact information (phone and email) for every speaker on an application to be considered. Incomplete applications will not be considered. You are allowed to submit multiple applications.

Please also consider sharing any links to past presentations and/or speeches that would allow reviewers to see your presentation style.

Review and Selection Process

The process to accept speakers is very selective. There are a very limited number of slots available, and the final decision is at the discretion of MHA. 

Please note: Selected speakers receive a complimentary full conference registration, which includes meals, receptions, and plenary events for June 11-13, 2020. However, all presenters are responsible for all travel-related expenses, including transportation and hotel accommodations. Do not submit a proposal if you cannot accept responsibility for travel-related expenses.

Plenary sessions and keynotes will be determined solely by MHA. If a submission warrants a plenary session/keynote instead of a workshop, MHA will make that determination and inform the submitter.

If similar proposals are submitted, it is at the discretion of MHA to combine speakers/presentations. If you are not selected, please feel free to consider re-applying next year.

There will also be an Affiliate Pre-Conference day on June 10, 2020 for MHA affiliates and invited guests only (schedule TBD). That agenda is determined through a different process – this process is used solely for the primary conference days of June 11-13.

Additional consideration will be given to any MHA Affiliate, Associate Member or Partner that submits a proposal that highlights programs and/or perspectives. To learn more about becoming an Associate Member, visit To learn about becoming an official MHA partner, visit

Please note: For all submitters to be treated equally and fairly, MHA staff will not provide individual guidance or suggestions during this submission process, regardless of who asks. Staff will not review draft proposals or provide feedback on draft proposals. Only when all final applications are submitted, and the submission window has closed, will MHA review applications.

MHA understands that mental health issues may need to be addressed with a unique lens when working with individuals and families with diverse values, beliefs, and sexual orientations, in addition to backgrounds that vary by race, ethnicity, religion, and language. MHA is actively seeking to increase the diversity of our attendees, speakers, and sponsors – and acknowledges that there are populations often overlooked when talking about mental health and substance use. If you have a topic that is in line with our conference theme that impacts under-served populations, we want to hear from you.

Acknowledgement: Upon receipt of your submission, you will receive an e-mail acknowledgement.

Notifications: We will notify all submitters about the status of their submission by January 17, 2020.

Follow-up: In the spring of 2020, MHA staff will contact speakers to discuss each workshop and bring together participants and moderators to discuss details via at least one telephone call. This pre-call is required for participation.

MHA staff will also help presenters ascertain audiovisual needs and ensure each breakout room is adequately set-up. Given limited resources, MHA will make all final decisions on AV set-up. Special requests are not guaranteed. Handouts are allowed but not required for each session. MHA is not responsible for the printing, collection or distribution of physical handouts and materials, which must be handled by the presenter(s).

All materials and presentation files must be finalized and submitted to MHA staff no later than May 29, 2020.

If Accepted

If accepted, selected speakers receive a complimentary full conference registration, which includes meals, receptions, and plenary events for June 11-13, 2020. Only MHA affiliates and invited guests can attend the pre-conference day on June 10, 2020.

Applications are accepted based on a variety of factors, including the specific speakers listed. If a speaker cannot participate after being accepted, MHA will work with the original applicant to find a suitable replacement but reserves the right to deny substituted speakers.

As noted above, all workshop presenters are responsible for all travel-related expenses, including transportation and hotel accommodations. MHA will arrange for a room block at the Hyatt Regency Washington Capitol Hill where presenters can receive a discounted rate.

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