National Conference on Mental Health


On Monday, June 3rd, the Avielle Foundation has been invited to attend the National Conference on Mental Health. President Obama and Vice President Biden will host a White House Mental Health Conference as part of the Administration’s effort to launch a national conversation to increase understanding and awareness about brain health. President Obama will deliver opening remarks and Vice President Biden will deliver closing remarks to conference participants.

While millions of Americans struggle with brain health problems, those who need help are too often afraid to seek it because of the shame and secrecy associated with brain illness. The conference will bring together people from across the country, including representatives from state and local governments, mental health advocates, educators, health care providers, faith leaders, and individuals who have struggled with brain health problems, to discuss how we can all work together to reduce stigma and help the millions of Americans struggling with mental health problems recognize the importance of reaching out for assistance.

The Avielle Foundation is answering the President’s call to launch a national conversation to increase the understanding and awareness about brain health in three ways:

By rebranding all things mental as brain.  “Mental” brings with it a fair degree of fear and trepidation.  Mental things are unknown and intangible.  But when we understand the underlying brain pathologies associated with illnesses we move toward removing the fear.  The levels of neurotransmitters or the particular brain regions that become dysfunctional and lead to illnesses are real, physical manifestations – they can be imaged, measure, quantified, and understood. Scientists can work with that, and patients can understand that and seek help for themselves or their loved ones without the stigma associated with mental illness.

By funding and otherwise facilitating research into the pathologies underlying aggression and violence.  This area of research has been largely neglected. In the field of brain health, too little is known about what drives violent behaviors.  Clearly something is wrong with a person capable of such atrocities as that seen in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.  We hope to better understand the biological and environmental factors associated with these pathologies.

By developing strong communities.  Once we have an understanding of the brain pathologies underlying aggression and violence, we can then educate healthcare providers, teachers, and other community members about identifying and responsibly advocating for those at risk of violent behaviors.  We can develop and put into practice innovative policies to facilitate counseling, education, and pharmacological interventions. Just as important, we need to strengthen community engagement.  A strong community is one in which every member belongs and is valued regardless of ethnicity, beliefs, political views, lifestyle, or social ideologies.  In such communities, individuals don’t feel stigmatized or alienated.  Instead, they feel that their contributions to the community are valid and significant.  The desire to act in desperate, destructive ways is then eliminated.  We hope to educate teachers and other leaders in research-based community-building strategies so that everyone can become valued and valuable members of society.

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