Utah Events and Awareness Day Spark Conversations to Reduce Stigma of Mental Health Issues

Labeled Fest, held Thursday through Saturday in Salt Lake City, gave people a chance to talk about mental illness during Mental Health Month in May. (Emily Ashcraft, KSL.com)

Estimated reading time: 6-7 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY – Many people are trying to normalize conversations about mental health and working to end the stigma around metal health that can sometimes prevent people from getting the support they need.

May is Mental Health Month and it’s a good time for people to take the time to think about how they can help. Labeled Fest, held Thursday, Friday and Saturday, hosted numerous presentations aimed at normalizing conversations about mental health and focusing on positive labels.

“Mental health really is a superpower, you know, and if we can all see that as a positive label instead of a negative label, we can all improve the community around us,” said Brian Higgins.

Higgins is the creative director Mental Health FiT, which stands for Films, Ideas and Advice, the organization that hosted the event. It’s a non-profit advocacy organization that helps people tell their stories, whether it’s mental health issues or other challenges.

Labeled Fest is held once a year as a place where people who have attended other organization events showcase things they’ve created or learned at workshops throughout the year, according to Higgins.

Higgins said the event is designed to help people look at positive labels associated with mental health like “creative”, “empathetic” and “connection”. They chose to hold the event at the Art Museum of Utah due to the connection many artists have with mental health.

He said statistics show that a fifth of people have a diagnosed mental health condition, but really everyone struggles with mental health issues.

“Mental health affects us all,” Higgins said.

The organization also focuses on how to help the homeless. Higgins suggested the easiest way to help the homeless is to smile and give people a little of your time. He said ignoring roaming also means ignoring people. Higgins himself has been homeless for more than 18 months and said homeless people are not much different from anyone else.

“Homelessness can happen to anyone,” he said.

At Labeled Fest, and throughout its other events, Mental Healthy FiT creates kits for the homeless with little things like socks and toiletries as well as cards with resource information.

Higgins said it was amazing to be hosting the in-person event again.

“There’s just a real energy and magic to bringing people together around a common goal,” Higgins said.

Damon Talbot attended Labeled Fest and made a “performative slideshow” which was designed to show that accepting a mental health situation or condition can help improve a person’s outlook, which he said many people told him he was inspiring. He is a member of the House of the Alliance, which is a program in Salt Lake City to help adults with mental illness lead productive lives.

He said a person with mental illness can be successful, even though they will have difficult days.

Talbot said that for many years after being diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder, he stayed home and isolated himself and didn’t talk to people, but after accepting it he was able to reintegrate into the community. and meet other people who were going through the same things. He said community events like Labeled Fest help people realize that mental illness doesn’t have to ruin their lives.

“So many people who have mental illness…they don’t talk about it, so an event like this where you can be vulnerable, you can come out and talk about it is really impactful,” Talbot said.

He said it’s important to remember that people with mental illness are like everyone else, they want connections and for people to reach out and recognize them. He said people don’t necessarily have to walk on eggshells around people with mental health issues, but it can be helpful to take the time to learn about their challenges.

Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but more specifically, Saturday is a day dedicated to children’s mental health awareness. Governor Spencer Cox has declared the day Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day in Utah, and the day is also recognized nationally.

Rebecca Dutson, president and CEO of Children’s Center Utah, said a big part of the day was to reduce the stigma around mental health issues that people, especially young people, face.

“I think we need to spend more time helping people understand that our smallest people, our little children, have mental health. And they have mental health issues,” Dutson said.

She said many people don’t stop to realize that infants, toddlers and preschoolers have mental health issues, but tackling them early can change the trajectory of the life of this child. She also said acknowledging the problem can lead to more solutions.

She said parents should not hesitate, if they are concerned about their child’s mental health, to contact a doctor, the Children’s Center Utah or other resources to get help for their child. She said parents and caregivers know their children best and can recognize when something is different, if the child is more withdrawn or acting out.

“When you feel something is wrong, we encourage families to reach out to their pediatrician and start a conversation,” Dutson said.

The Utah Children’s Center helps children between birth and 6 years old with mental health issues. Dutson said her clinical team uses trauma-informed, evidence-based treatments that are individualized based on the child’s specific experience and needs.

Dutson said the past two years of the coronavirus pandemic have had an impact on everyone’s mental health; as children were taken out of school, families were isolated, and there were many strangers, this caused stress for adults, which can increase their children’s mental health issues.

“I think one of the most important things is that as families and as a society…we should talk about it more. It’s fundamental to our well-being,” Dutson said.

She said there are times when everyone needs more help and families should normalize discussions about mental health.

Suicide prevention concert

Utah artist Alex Boye was scheduled to headline what was billed as the state’s first-ever suicide prevention concert on Saturday, but the concert was rescheduled for Friday, May 13 at 7 p.m. at the Maverik Center to host potential Utah Grizzlies hockey playoff games. .

Tickets for the sold-out concert were free but distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Utah has the sixth highest suicide rate in the United States,” Boye said. “Music saved my life and I know it can do the same for others, which is why I’m doing these concerts. Our concept is simple: use these concerts to help connect, heal and supporting our community. It’s going to be an unforgettable night that will nourish your soul and save lives; it’s not just a concert… It’s an experience.”

Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers court and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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