The First Annual Stop Stigma Together Summit is Coming to Salt Lake City This Summer

Come meet some of the Champions battling mental health stigma at this Touchstone Event

To learn more or register for the Summit, visit

The  Stop Stigma Together (SST) summit is the culmination of years of work by people and institutions all over the country. More than 300 groups–public and nonprofit, federal agencies and the military, large and small–all will be gathering under the aegis of the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, which is administering both this Grand Challenge and this event. It is a crucial Touchstone Event in the Grand Challenge to end the stigma against mental illness and substance use disorder. Such events are one factor defining successful social movements. They are so crucial because they bring Champions together. 

Champions are people who become the committed cadre who fuel the engine of a Grand Challenge. Champions inspire others to join the cause. Among them are visionary leaders, who lead with strength, stamina, wisdom, and intelligence. But champions aren’t just cheerleaders–they ask tough questions that help strengthen your work.

Champions are valuable in building coalitions. For SST, coalitions have become the key to driving progress forward, and champions have unique power to help that along. SST started in 2022 as a raw idea with thirty core champions from the most influential organizations operating in the mental health space, private and public, attending a Design Studio Touchstone Event. That event was like the stone thrown in the pond creating ripples that have moved ever wider to bring in interested and motivated participants. From our initial few dozen leaders at the fall 2022 Design Studio, SST now has over 300 member participants all over the country and across the spectrum of stakeholders.

SST has relatively small groups like the Ride for Mental Health in upstate New York. And it also has as a member-partner the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization.

Champions Get It and Spread It

Broad coalitions tend to have key Champions who know how to get stuff done in disparate areas of expertise. SST’s model of stigma divides it into three areas, each of which needs its own strategies and resources to address. Its approach follows the guidance of the National Academies’ publication, Ending Discrimination Against People with Mental and Substance Use Disorders. The publication sees stigma’s presence, in the writers’ words, in “three levels of society—structural (laws, regulations, policies), public ( behaviors of individuals in groups), and self-stigma (internalized negative stereotypes).” 

For example, you find structural stigma in some state laws regulating what people labeled “mentally ill” can and cannot do in their personal lives. In some states, people who have been admitted to a facility for mental health issues and who want to get married, divorced, or remarried must go before a judge before they can apply for a marriage license. As for self-stigma, just look at any cop show or hospital drama, where characters with SUD are portrayed as untrustworthy, pathetic, criminal, or scary.

Champions Come In All Sizes

With SST’s work well underway, you may have seen some of the outcomes in these areas. A big champion fighting public stigma is The Ad Council. The influential group that brought us such memorable Public Service Announcement campaigns as Smokey the Bear and “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” has committed to a multi-year campaign called "Love, Your Mind" that is already appearing on the nation’s airwaves and social media platforms. 

“There’s a mental health crisis in our country that has been laid bare by the challenges of the last several years: the COVID pandemic, economic uncertainty, and the ongoing movement for racial justice. With the ‘Love, Your Mind’ campaign, we are offering people inspiration and actionable steps they can take to make their mental health a priority and experience how that benefits every area of their lives,” said Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council.

A new champion in the policy area is OSHA, which has embraced the idea that protecting workplace health also includes workers’ mental health. Areas of policy attention include mental health awareness in the workplace, creating workplace programs and materials that incorporate ideas around stigma and mental health, and building suicide prevention and awareness into the workplace environment.

All of the organizations mentioned above—and at least 290 more!—will be represented at the Salt Lake City Summit. If this is something that calls to you, come meet the champions. Maybe you’ll become one, too. Please register today and be sure to come introduce yourself to me in June in Salt Lake City!

To learn more or register for the Summit, visit

Solving social problems is inherently SOCIAL-it happens in community. I’m looking for researchers, academicians, and those on the front lines who are battling overwhelming issues. The community will include leaders in all aspects of society: nonprofits, corporations, government agencies, independent agents, and thought leaders.

If you’re passionate about Grand Challenges or would like to be, visit my Medium account, where I am publishing on Grand Challenges. Let’s work together to address these sticky, systemic, complex, and wicked issues once and for all, for the sake of future generations of life on Earth.

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