Updated Jul 20, 2022 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on the nation's mental health crisis, with a view from Chicago

On Wednesday, July 20th, Axios health care editor Tina Reed and Chicago reporter Monica Eng led conversations examining solutions aimed at addressing the nation’s mental health crisis, with a closer look at local initiatives in Chicago. Guests included U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy and Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner Allison Arwady.

Vivek H. Murthy explained the urgency of executing on mental health solutions in the U.S., the factors that are driving the youth mental health crisis and his thoughts on gun violence as a public health issue. He also commented on new Axios/Ipsos polling finding that many Americans are tuning out COVID messaging. 

  • On the intersection of gun violence and mental health: “Gun violence unquestionably is a public health emergency. We just haven't been treating it as such, and we have to approach it with renewed urgency. I've been encouraged to see the bipartisan efforts in Congress to help move us a step closer toward real solutions. But we can't let that be our last step…people who are struggling with mental illness are much more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators of violence. And so while we do need to invest in mental health, we also have to address the broader issues that drive gun violence in our country.”
  • On a recent Axios/Ipsos poll finding that Americans are still tuning out new COVID information: “I think it’s very understandable that people are fatigued at two and a half years into a pandemic. I think we all feel some element of fatigue. What encourages me is that we are in such a different place now than we were two and a half years ago. We have vaccines that we know have saved lives, and boosters that can extend those benefits. We have more treatments now than we’ve ever had before, and they’re highly effective at keeping you out of the hospital. We now have masks and tests which we know work and which have been freely distributed by the government to people across the country.”

Allison Arwady described the progress that’s been made toward Chicago’s 2019 mental health framework and the challenges that remain, how trauma-informed mental health care can help prevent violence and key learnings from mental health crisis intervention responses. 

  • On the challenge of building a robust workforce of mental health professionals: “The biggest challenge is always workforce, workforce, workforce, where we don’t have enough mental health professionals, especially that look like Chicago, and across all of health care, we’re looking to continue to really build that.”
  • On trauma-informed mental health care: “I think so much of this is thinking beyond the immediate victim in their family to actually having a conversation more broadly about trauma-informed care and mental health, because health is mental health, mental health is health, and too often we’ve thought about these differently. There can be different stigma around them. Everybody is carrying around some history that impacts the way they see the world. And the more trauma that you’ve been exposed to, the more skills you can actually learn that can help you be productive.” 

In a View from the Top segment, Walgreens Boots Alliance executive vice president and global chief human resources officer Holly May emphasized the importance of employer support for employees’ mental health and well-being. 

  • “I think as we look at the environment around us, it’s never been more important to think about the community you’re creating as an organization, thinking about work-life balance post-pandemic. I think we’ve all seen the stats in labor forces throughout the U.S. right now and abroad, globally, that there are real challenges that companies are facing and to really embrace the whole person…I think the more you invest in your people, you listen to your people, you understand what they need, you create a strong community.”

Thank you Walgreens for sponsoring this event.

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