Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Top mental health experts converge at DU to discuss public policy

Forty of the top mental health experts in the United States met at DU on April 1 to develop a public awareness message for children’s mental health.

Colorado First Lady Jeannie Ritter opened the “Healthy Development” summit by conveying her passion for mental health issues and promising to help deliver the message the group develops.

“It’s a perfect time to focus and share what’s appropriate,” Ritter said. “I’m happy and delighted to convey the message you come forward with today.”

Mary Ann McCabe, director of the Office of Policy and Communication for the Society of Research in Child Development (SRCD), helped organize the summit and set the stage for the day’s activities.

“We clearly need to do something different,” McCabe said. “More of the same isn’t going to work.”

McCabe asked the psychologists, scientists, professors, physicians and mental health advocates in attendance to develop ideas to share with the public to improve their understanding.

“We will not finish today,” she said. “This is the beginning of our work, but we want to define what is really the most important [messages] among the things we know.”

Susan Bales, president and founder of FrameWorks Institute, explained how her organization develops public messaging. Her research, she said, shows public apathy is not due to lack of caring.

“It isn’t that their values are not strong,” Bales said. “But instead, we’re not communicating the message well enough. The message is not evoking them.”
DU professors Stephen Shirk, director of the Clinic for Child and Family Psychology, and Bruce Pennington, a development neuropsychologist, participated in the summit.

The summit was held at DU in conjunction with the 2009 SRCD meeting.

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