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Eliminating Mental Health Stigma, Our Grand Challenge

The World Health Organization has stated, “There is no health without mental health.”

Mental health and substance use disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide, and the stigma and shame associated with mental health permeate all levels of society. Brain disorders should be seen the same as disorders of the kidney or the heart. Yet stigma causes inequity within health care systems and keeps policymakers from crafting laws free from discrimination. Stigma keeps people from seeking the treatment they need, robs them of their joy in life and well-being, and, in the worst case, results in ultimate harm.

Our vision at Huntsman Mental Health Institute is a world free from stigma and suffering. We believe we can achieve our mission and eliminate stigma forever.

Huntsman Mental Health Institute is fortunate to have a tremendous opportunity in front of us. The commitment by the Huntsman family two years ago was the largest donation ever made for mental health. Even more important, they made a personal commitment to partner with the community to elevate mental health and address the tough challenges. The state of Utah, the University of Utah, and many other partners have identified mental health as a top priority. This synergy and deep collaboration provide a unique opportunity to do something transformative.

That transformation includes tackling the mental health disorders that have long been ignored and underfunded, causing so much pain and lost lives. We can address the national emergency of youth mental health, learn how to provide quality mental health care for people who have been neglected for too long, and end mental health disparities in this country.

And we can end the shame, prejudice, and inequalities that mental health stigma causes—this is our "Grand Challenge."

We know we cannot do it alone. We are bringing together organizations and individuals from across the nation representing different communities and populations: families, patients, health care organizations, schools, religious institutions, media, businesses, and community-based and government organizations. Stakeholders will come together to build a unified strategy to eliminate stigma from all sectors of society. Our plan will include:

  • Engaging a national steering committee
  • Developing metrics and funding models
  • Creating outreach plans to connect to underserved communities
  • Building infrastructure to coordinate and communicate evidence-based best practices
  • Hosting pilot projects and identifying new success models

Our goal is not to lead but rather to activate the networks of those who have taken on this cause and made progress. Together, we will identify opportunities for more significant impact and build a movement.

It will start by sharing our own journeys and mental health stories and encouraging others to do the same. Our shared experiences and our collective passion for this work will lead us to succeed.

We have an obligation, not just for ourselves, but for the people we love and our community and country. Now is the time to eliminate mental health stigma—please join us in this fight. Together, we can create greater healing and hope.


Mark Rapaport, MD is the inaugural CEO of the Huntsman Mental Health Institute and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at University of Utah School of Medicine. Previously, Rapaport was head of psychiatry at Emory University in Atlanta, where he co-founded the Emory Brain Center.