“How do we
promote mental health and prevent mental illness?”

Pictured: former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., WNBA star Chamique Holdsclaw and William B. Lawson, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine

Photo by Marvin T. Jones


A Goal Line Stand for Health
By Shayla Hart, graduate assistant, Office of University Communications

“How do we promote mental health and prevent mental illness?”

This was one of the main questions addressed during a health forum held last month in the Blackburn Center. Students, faculty, staff and community members gathered with former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., and former and current NFL and WNBA players and representatives to discuss depression, suicide and surviving concussions sustained during sports.

“NFL Community Huddle: Taking a Goal Line Stand for Your Mind & Body,” is a collaborative effort between Howard’s Health Sciences Enterprise, the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse College School of Medicine and the NFL.

“We are very concerned about traumatic brain injuries,” said Satcher, who also noted that these injuries can lead to early onset dementia. The hypothesis that traumatic brain injuries can lead to other mental health diagnoses was also discussed.

The goal of the forum was to work to develop plans to promote prevention and reduce the risk of dementia caused by concussions and close-head injuries and to reduce the stigma associated with mental health. The panel included WNBA star Chamique Holdsclaw and retired NFL players Mark Kelso and Eric Hipple.

Holdsclaw shared her trials with Major Depressive Disorder, and how she was able to manage the disorder and maintain her role as an influential sports player. While she was initially reluctant to share that she had been diagnosed with depression, she has since become a spokesperson in hopes of battling the stigma associated with it and educating the community on mental health. This is extremely important given Dr. Satcher’s prediction that, “In 2020, Depressive Disorder will be the most disabling problem in the world.”

William B. Lawson, M.D., chair of the Department of Psychiatry in the College of Medicine and Howard University Hospital, said that “depression is often unrecognized” and that “substance abuse may be a sign that a person is self-medicating for depression.”

The forum ended with a challenge for the attendees to make a commitment to continue the discussion about mental health and specific concerns about preventable issues such as traumatic brain injuries.

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