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By Paul Gionfriddo, President/CEO

Mental Health America hosted its 2014 Annual Conference in Atlanta last week, and it was a terrific and energizing event. Those who attended know what I’m talking about – the drive, the content, the messaging, the enthusiasm in the room – well, pretty much everything – suggested that in Mental Health America and its affiliates we have some of the most innovative, dedicated, and inspiring mental health advocates in the nation.

Here’s just a sampling of what transpired over the two days:

  • 13 programs from affiliates around the country were featured in our new Innovation Nation program. This will become a fixture at future annual conferences, highlighting some of the most innovative programs in the country. Included among this year’s programs were this year’s Innovation in Programming Award winner, the Texas Youth Suicide Prevention Project of MHA Texas, and last year’s winner, the MHA Palm Beach County (FL) Be Merge health and behavioral health integration program.
  • We laid out the vision of MHA, with its focus on prevention for all, early identification and intervention for those at risk, integrated health and behavioral health services for those who need them, and recovery as our goal.
  • We heard three absolutely amazing dinner speeches – from honorees Demi Lovato, Harvey Rosenthal, and Charles Willis – at a jam-packed Clifford Beers Dinner.
  • We announced the results of the first 100,000 mental health screenings completed on www.mhascreening.org.
  • We gave a sneak preview of our upcoming first annual Mental Health Status of the Nation report, with data for all fifty states plus DC.
  • We announced our new national partnership with American Red Cross, through which MHA affiliates and ARC chapters will be able to work together formally to provide post-disaster mental health services.
  • And we officially launched our #B4Stage4 campaign with its first 2500 followers (thank you, Demi Lovato)! #B4Stage4 is MHA’s newly-branded national campaign to bring attention to, and win support for, initiatives supporting earlier identification, intervention, and recovery from mental health conditions.

As our participants – who were uniform in their praise for the meeting – noticed, MHA is very much on the move these days. We made the most of our two days together this year, and we’ll be making the most of our new initiatives in the months to come.

And we’re already turning our attention to next year’s meeting. So “mark” down the date for joining us at the Hilton Mark Center on June 3-5, 2015.

There we’ll feature:

  • More Innovation Nation programming;
  • An Open House in our Mental Health America offices;
  • #B4Stage4, screening program, and mental health status updates;
  • More great speakers; 
  • Hill Day visit opportunities for all who want to do them; and 
  • The Clifford Beers Dinner – our signature dinner event – which will once again be included in the price of the registration.

Stay tuned for details about how to register.  And I’ll see you next year!