Coming Together for Action is a biennial event that explores cutting edge research, practice and policy in behavioral health and concrete actions that we can take to strengthen behavioral health for all. The theme is New Directions for Behavioral Health: Building Socially Connected and Just Communities.
CT4A will bring together individuals from psychology, psychiatry, social work, nursing, legal, planning, education, international community development, political science, technology, economics and more. Our attendees includes persons with lived experience, students, youth, retirees, and early and mid-career professionals. Join us!
During the last two years, health disparities, social injustices, and fractured social connections have threatened the health and well-being of citizens globally. The uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic combined with isolation, concern for the well-being of loved ones, and unrelenting stress took a toll on everyone, especially front-line workers, individuals living in densely populated neighborhoods, and youth. COVID-19 has exacerbated an already existing crisis in behavioral health.
Concurrently, countries are reckoning with the impact of structural racism that exists within and across their communities. Climate-related events are increasingly threatening livelihoods. And, conflicts persist, most recently in Ukraine, directly affecting millions.
Attention to the well-being of individuals, along with the pathways to, and systems supporting behavioral health must be reimagined. Strengthening behavioral health requires a comprehensive systemic approach in which there is shared responsibility among community members for addressing the determinants that shape mental health, including relationships with family and friends, neighborhood conditions, discrimination and oppression, and other social policies and practices.
Areas of Focus
Underscoring the need to act, the Global Alliance invites submissions that illustrate innovative and effective efforts. Presentations may address research, policy, and practice on topics related to (but not limited to) the following areas of focus:
COVID-19 revealed the depth of disparities that exist in behavioral health services for populations. The concept of equity refers to fairness and justice. It recognizes that not all populations start from the same place so our efforts must focus on overcoming intentional and unintentional barriers that arise from bias and systemic structures.
Questions of interest include:
- What are the key components of a just and socially connected community?
- How have communities worked to address deep-rooted racial inequity?
- What strategies can be employed to address structural inequities?
- How can communities create opportunities for healing? For restoration?
- How can we achieve equity in research? In policy? In practice?
- What is the role of community planning and design in addressing structural inequity?
- How can we better integrate research into policy?
Behavioral Health across the Lifespan
Long before the coronavirus pandemic, the prevalence of anxiety, depression, and mental distress was already increasing globally. By the end of the first year of the pandemic, the WHO reported that anxiety and depression had increased 25% globally. The growing behavioral health crisis was exacerbated by severe disruptions in behavioral health services especially for those most in need. In many countries, behavioral health services have not kept pace with other health services and, for many populations including youth, available behavioral health services do not match their needs.
Questions of interest include:
- What are the key components of comprehensive behavioral health for adults? For young people? For the elderly?
- How does the built environment affect behavioral health?
- What is “equity” in behavioral health for populations that historically have been oppressed or discriminated against?
- What are the implications for changes in the workforce to implement comprehensive behavioral health?
- How do we encourage community responsibility for behavioral health?
- How can communities foster greater social connection among residents?
- How can a population mental health framework strengthen behavioral health?
- What innovations globally are informative for achieving the vision of comprehensive behavioral health?
Children and Families
In October 2021, UNICEF issued a dire warning in their State of the World’s Children 2021 report: “Children and young people could feel the impact of COVID-19 on their mental health and well-being for many years to come.” The pandemic has affected the mental health and well-being of children in several ways, including the loss of family members, isolation from friends and extended family, school closures and online learning, a lack of socialization, and family stress. The concern about children’s mental health spans the globe. The World Health Organization has reported that suicide is the leading cause of death among young people in low- and middle-income countries, and the second-leading cause in high-income countries. In the U.S., the Children’s Hospital Association has established Sound the Alarm for Kids to mobilize support for children’s mental health in response to suicide rates.
Questions of interest include:
- How can we prevent mental health crises in children and youth?
- How has COVID-19 changed childhood? Parenting practices?
- What does social connection look like for children and youth?
- How can settings and environments foster meaningful engagement of young people?
- How can social media be a positive force in the lives of young people?
Presentations may also address research, policy, and practice topics that include (but are not limited to) such contexts and foci as:
- Organizing systems and supports to reach underserved populations
- Policy change to support behavioral health
- System supports for culturally- and contextually-sensitive intervention
- Mechanisms to support cross-section collaboration and coordinated care
- Neighborhood or physical environment influences on behavioral health and social development
- Community and neighborhood initiatives to support individuals with behavioral health needs
- Place-based efforts to promote well-being and foster equity
- Strategies for promoting social inclusion
- Strategies for fostering support for individuals and families
Marginalized and Underserved Populations
- Promoting behavioral health and social justice for LGBTQ+ populations
- Preventing behavioral health problems and meeting behavioral health needs of Indigenous populations
- Supporting integration post-incarceration
- Supporting immigrant, refugee, and asylee rights
- Prevention of and intervention for human trafficking
- Supporting the behavioral health needs of military veterans
This is the moment to demand change—with our voices and with our actions.U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, 2021