By Jennifer Bright
Last week’s 2022 MHA Annual Conference, Forward Together: Recovery, Healing, Hope, convened, both in person and virtually, thousands of mental health advocates, clinicians, and crusaders with a unified goal of sharing ideas to improve mental health for all. Personally, it was a special event that marked the beginning of my tenure as MHA Board Chair, an honor and responsibility I am energized to embrace.
With so many incredible sessions led by inspirational and knowledgeable speakers, every attendee could give you a list of their most memorable moments. For me, these were my top 10 favorite takeaways from yet another amazing MHA conference.
- Connecting people’s brains and hearts is the key to good legislation and policy. Thank you to Utah State Sen. Steve Eliason for his perspective on this as an elected leader.
- New York Times bestselling author Bassey Ikpi reminded us that recognizing the good in oneself equals spirituality. MHA President and CEO Schroeder Stribling announced an MHA endeavor over the next few years to study the spirit-mind link and how it can improve mental well-being.
- From pain comes greatness. Our speakers offered living proof of this in art and music (multi-platinum pop artist Andy Grammer), poetry and writing (Bassey Ikpi), and athleticism (10-time world champion swimmer Allison Schmitt).
- Just keep moving. MHA’s 2022 mPower award recipient Sam Gerry’s story echoed this sentiment from Martin Luther King Jr. Gerry, a 20-year-old college student, co-founded Kick It for a Cause, Inc., a charity kickball tournament-turned-nonprofit organization supporting suicide prevention.
- Think out of the box. Look for uncommon and unexpected solutions. Shoutout to The Confess Project for linking mental health and barbers to reach Black men.
- We are all in this together — mental health affects everyone and is our call for allyship, coalition, and radical collaboration.
- Change happens in communities — first and always.
- The struggle is real and there is hope. Youth are this movement’s future. It’s proof that MHA’s strategic focus on NextGen Prevention strategic plan is both visionary and impact focused.
- Be authentic. Love yourself as you are. Andy Grammer beautifully put this in song, and so many presenters at this conference brilliantly put this into words.
- Your voice is your superpower: USE IT.Tell your story, share your learning from the conference, ask questions, and demand change.
If you missed this year’s conference, I encourage you to attend next year and make your own list of takeaways to share with your community.
Jennifer Bright is MHA Board Chair and president of Momentum Health Strategies.