“I hate the word stigma. Because what we’re really talking about is guilt, shame, ignorance, and prejudice,” said Dr. Mark Hyman Rapaport, chief executive officer of the Huntsman Mental Health Institute with the University of Utah.
This was one of the profound statements made during the National Governors Association convening last week, which brought together youth advocates and some of the most powerful elected leaders across the nation to address youth mental health and how to reduce stigma.
Blue Shield of California Vice President of Corporate Citizenship Antoinette Mayer led a panel of distinguished experts, who explained why stigma arises and how it is often a symptom of communities not having suitable resources to address mental health needs. Panelists recommended key actions and resources for governors to support youth mental health, with a focus on increasing conversations, elevating youth voices, and providing culturally responsive care.
National Governor Association Chair, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy introduced the Strengthening Youth Mental Health initiative in July 2022, in response to the rising rates of mental health distress among young people. Hosted by Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the two-day roundtable event in Santa Monica on January 24-25 was the second of four roundtable discussions focused on developing bipartisan solutions to strengthen youth mental health across the nation.
Mayer co-founded BlueSky in 2019, Blue Shield’s signature youth mental health initiative, to invest in best-in-class youth mental health programs that are incorporating youth voices to bridge the gap between stigma and empowerment, especially among youth of color. She was joined by panelists Dr. Mark Hyman Rapaport, chief executive officer of the Huntsman Mental Health Institute with the University of Utah; Cameron DeTello, Rocky Mountain engagement manager at Young Invincibles; Alison Malmon, founder and executive director of Active Minds; and Matthew Diep, program manager at CAYEN (California Youth Empowerment Network).
Experts highlight tools, technology to tackle stigma
Panelist Alison Malmom recommended convening youth through peer-to-peer support as an effective tool for reducing stigma. While stigma persists, she noted it has significantly decreased in recent years as young people have been given more opportunities to discuss mental health.
“Young adults know what young adults need,” Malmom said. “We can bring in young adults to lead the conversation – not just having kids at a kids’ table, but actually lead the conversation. They are the ones who can say, ‘The shootings are what we’ve been experiencing,’ or ‘Climate anxiety is what’s most pressing for my peers right now.’ The more young adults can talk about their everyday stressors, the earlier we can get them the support they need.”
Panelist Mark Rapaport emphasized the importance of open conversation, sharing the success of his organization’s social media program for youth who have faced mental health challenges or substance use disorders. Participants are invited to openly tell their stories, share their experiences, and connect with other youth to share how they are addressing their mental health.
Following the panel conversation, California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom highlighted the state’s efforts on youth and technology: “I hope that we can continue to address the impact of technology on our kids’ mental wellbeing. You can’t have conversations around mental health without addressing that. I hope people continue to talk about that in their various positions and roles across the country.”
First Partner Newsom also announced at the convening that the California Department of Public Health will begin a $100-Million Youth Behavioral Health Stigma Reduction and Public Awareness Campaign.
The panel closed on a hopeful note, indicating that efforts by governors to decrease stigma and increase resources are already steering more youth to have open conversations with their peers, as well as encouraging them to seek the care they need.
- Read more about the National Governors Association convening, Strengthening Youth Mental Health.
- Learn more about Blue Shield of California’s youth mental health initiative, BlueSky.
From left to right: Dr. Mark Hayman Rapaport; Cameron DeTello; Matthew Diep; Alison Malmon; Antoinette Mayer
Antoinette Mayer and Dr. Mark Ghaly of California Health and Human Services
Bill McBride; Antoinette Mayer and Dr. Mark Ghaly
Governor Murphy and Antoinette Mayer