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Future of Mental Health Dinner - Los Angeles


On January 8th, sixteen leaders in the mental health community convened on the west side of Los Angeles to discuss some of the most pressing topics in the space. Our co-host, Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, led a lively discussion spanning a range of complex topics with some very special guests, including representatives from National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Neuroscience Institute, USC School of Clinical Occupational Therapy, several mental health startups, along with major advocates like Talinda Bennington, Yashi Brown and Anna Shinoda.

This vast range of perspectives helped to put shape to some of the most perplexing topics in mental health, including the following:

  • There are many factors that contribute to the mental health challenges in society – including the breakdown of traditional institutions that have historically provided support and a sense of community such as the extended family and the faith based community. How can we recreate and use technology for good – to enhance our connectivity and not further degrade or distort as social media can sometimes do.

  • Our health and legal system is completely overwhelmed by the rising mental illness epidemic. There are not currently – nor will there be any time soon – enough mental health or substance abuse professionals to meet the needs of our society. Addressing the mentally ill population, who are largely homeless or incarcerated, will require collaboration with key legislators at the local, state, and federal level.

  • Despite all of our progresses, mental health awareness is still very low. Tragedies like suicides or mass shootings are sadly the most galvanizing force. Efforts to make mental health a common topic of discussion are often stymied by deep rooted stigmas and general lack of education on the subject. Fortunately there are many fine efforts underway, led by very bright people, to raise awareness and increase access to care; but, true change will not happen without our persistent support.

  • We must continue to explore and develop non traditional approaches that provide support and healing to those in need. Non traditional approaches are effective – especially when used in combination with traditional or other non traditional methods of care. One size doesn’t fit all!

  • Technological solutions are of great interest and can assist in increasing access to care – though they must not be seen as replacing support and treatment that is delivered face to face. They should be seen as “in addition to” not “instead of” – and we must ensure that technologically based solutions actually deliver what they intend or promise. The market is exploding with apps that claim to increase well-being. We must ensure proper review and scrutiny for these tools.

The turnout and engagement was incredible for our first event. I can't wait to see what comes next as we gather other key constituents from the mental health space at future events across the globe.

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