Mental Health and Health Communication

UT Center for Health Communication to Launch Theme on Mental Health and Health Communication

The University of Texas at Austin Center for Health (CHC) is proud to announce the launch of a new 2-year theme: Mental Health and Health Communication. The theme will begin in Fall 2018 and run throughout the 2018-19 and 2019-2020 academic years.

Mental health is a pressing public health issue, and as operationalized in our 2-year theme, encompasses a broad continuum across which communication is integral, including mental health promotion for all, stigma reduction, and treatment optimization.  In Texas, with one in five adult Texans experiencing a mental health concern every year. The stigma associated with mental health concerns can exacerbate negative health outcomes and serve as a barrier to seeking care. On our campus, more than 1/3 of students report stress as a significant impact on their academics and 58% experienced overwhelming anxiety over the last year.  Additionally, Dell Medical School is leading the redesign of the Austin State Hospital to create a center for brain health on the Austin State Hospital campus, standing to greatly impact how treatment for mental illness is delivered in Central Texas.

There are several goals for this 2-year theme. A primary objective is for the theme to serve as an invitation.  It is a way to raise awareness across campus of the work the CHC is doing and invite in the students, faculty, and staff on campus doing work in mental health who will discover the CHC through this theme. Similarly, the theme might provide a new context for those who have already been doing work in health communication to explore and extend their research to a different health issue. The result should be more members of campus discovering the CHC, making new interdisciplinary connections, and starting new projects.

Theme years are a new endeavor for the CHC, and thus we are still in the planning phase of what specific activities over the course of two years may be. More details about theme activities will be determined over the course of the summer, but features of the theme could include:

  • Research talks related to mental health and health communication on both the Moody College of Communication and Dell Medical School sides of campus
  • Mental health organizations invited to present at CHC monthly all-hands meetings
  • Class projects with community partners and nonprofits focused on mental health
  • A symposium in the second year of the theme highlighting UT health communication research focused on mental health
  • A whitepaper written in the second year on the current best practices in health communication related to mental health and promising directions for future research

The vision of the CHC is to improve health through evidence-based communication research. This 2-year theme on mental health and health communication is an opportunity to encourage new interdisciplinary research, education, and practice. All of the activities associated with the theme will serve that broader vision of working to improve the health of people in Austin, Central Texas, and beyond.

For more information about the CHC or the Mental Health and Health Communication theme, e-mail Director Michael Mackert.