Why the Mental Health Service Conference Matters Now

Events of the past several years have exposed deep fractures within the sociopolitical fabric of the United States. Political tensions, a renewed national discourse on racism, social unrest, climate change, and the devastation of COVID have exacted a significant toll on our collective mental health.

For minoritized populations, the impact of these events is magnified manyfold. The synergistic interaction of racial injustice, COVID-19, and mental health inequities has contributed to disproportionately poor mental health outcomes for minoritized populations. For example, suicide rates and overdose deaths - key indicators of mental wellness at a population level - rose among minority populations during COVID, compared with whites.

These disproportionate outcomes are not coincidental; they arise from longstanding policies – social and political determinants – that were intentionally implemented at various points in U.S. history to create disparity in opportunity and access for marginalized groups. Further, these disparities are not limited to ethnic/racial groups – they include populations experiencing mental health conditions, many of whom are involved with the carceral system, are unsheltered and experience other social determinants. Rural and frontier populations also experience similar challenges.

If there is a silver lining to be drawn from COVID-19, it is that it slowed the pace of society nationally and globally enough to draw attention to these deep, historic, and persisting injustices. A second unexpected but equally important result of COVID is a renewed appreciation of the importance of mental health by societies that have experienced the collective traumas of the pandemic. The energy from this national dialogue creates a unique opportunity to advocate for the needs of populations disproportionately impacted by these social determinants.

For these reasons and more, the 2021 Mental Health Services Conference – The Sociopolitical Determinants of Mental Health, is both timely and critical. This conference provides a wealth of expertise, thought leadership, networking, and opportunities for crucial conversations to move the dialogue forward.

As a psychiatrist working primarily in the public mental health domain, I am excited by the opportunity to learn how to channel these energies toward policies and practices that impact sociopolitical determinants and that drive healthcare outcomes. I am personally looking forward to the opportunity to (re)connect and recharge alongside peers, colleagues and friends working in the same arena. COVID has taught us all the value of staying connected and I fully intend to take this opportunity to do just that.

Sosunmolu Shoyinka, M.D.

Registration Is Now Open

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2021 Meeting Theme

Learn more about this year's theme, Sociopolitical Determinants: Practice, Policy and Implementation

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