How the nation’s mental health leaders came together to stop the stigma

UPDATED: OCTOBER 11, 2022 AT 7:18 PM

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — The National Mental Health summit brings together leaders from across the country to align on the same goal — ending the stigma surrounding mental health.

“Stigma is the number one reason why people don’t get help,” Christena Huntsman Durham, executive vice president of the Huntsman Foundation, said.

The Huntsman Mental Health Institute hosted this conference. Utah and the institute have been the nation’s leaders in ending the stigma.

They said stigma makes people feel embarrassed and ashamed, causing them to push away how they are feeling. However, if we end that stigma and treat mental illness not as a weakness but as a treatable brain disease, they said we can really make a change.

And that’s what they hope these mental health leaders from across the nation take home.

“What we have learned is working together, coming together with a common agenda, we can do so much more than we can individually,” David Huntsman, president of the Huntsman Foundation, said.

“These organizations are like a great soloist; our job is to help these soloists form an orchestra,” Dr. Mark Hyman Rapaport, Huntsman Mental Health Institute CEO, said.

Tonja Myles attended the conference from Louisiana. She said she struggled with mental illness her whole life, and being at this conference gives her hope for the future.

“It’s so great for me to see this in my lifetime, where it’s one mission, and I believe this is how we get things done,” she said.

At a young age, she said she went through a lot.

“I went through a series of being raped, a lot of abuse, hating myself because I thought it was my fault,” Myles said.

She said that lead her to drugs and suicide attempts.

“The first time I tried to kill myself, I was 13.” Myles said. “I have lived most of my life living to die; suicide was always in my back pocket.”

She said she attempted two more times after that, but now, she is an advocate for hope, and said that is why she came all the way to Utah — to share her story and help these leaders make change.

Suicide prevention resources

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call, text, or chat the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 which is answered 24/7/365 by crisis counselors at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute. All calls to legacy crisis hotlines, including the old National Suicide Prevention hotline, 1-800-273-8255, will also connect to a crisis care worker at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute as well.

Additional resources

Other community-based resources