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Hard Conversations: Making the Most of Intervention Opportunities

Sex, drugs, and rock & roll. This year, Mental Health America (MHA)’s annual conference didn’t shy away from these topics that, though hard to talk about, are also extremely important to any conversation about the real experience of living with mental health or substance use disorders.

On Wednesday, June 14th, Patrick and Amy Kennedy participated in a plenary session with MHA’s CEO Paul Gionfriddo to discuss our common struggle—living with the shame and silence around mental health and addiction. Rather than have open and honest discussions about concerns and illnesses, many families hide in silence. This silence makes people afraid to seek help, enables discrimination, and furthers an epidemic of suicide and overdose.

Risky behaviors like compulsive shopping, over-exercising, risky sexual activity, or recreational drug use may indicate more serious mental health and substance use issues. When we notice these behaviors, we have a critical opportunity to intervene and mitigate worse outcomes.

How can you be prepared to have tough conversations? These resources can help.

For educators

  • Teachers, administrators, and school staff all have a role to play in destigmatizing mental health. Check out The Kennedy Forum’s Five Pillars for creating the mental health system we need in our schools.
  • Normalize conversations about mental health in your classroom with these six activities.
  • To effectively intervene in a situation involving mental health concerns or a crisis, training can make all the difference. Consider bringing Youth Mental Health First Aid to your school.

For families

  • Mental Health America has developed resources to help parents and children talk about mental health concerns.

For providers

For policymakers

For individuals with mental health and substance use disorders

  • If you’re concerned about your mental health, use MHA’s Time to Talk resource for tips on asking for help.
  • Under federal law, insurers must cover mental health and substance use services at the same level that they would cover services for other conditions. Learn more about your parity rights.
  • If you believe that your parity rights have been violated and would like to file an appeal, visit our Parity Registry for resources to support you through the appeals process.

Don’t be ashamed or afraid to talk about mental health and substance use. Let’s take a page out of MHA’s book and “fight in the open.”

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“We stand on the doorstep to make momentous progress in advancing the cause of this new civil rights struggle started by the work of President Kennedy over 50 years ago.”
— Patrick J. Kennedy
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