The University of Utah launched the new institute Thursday after it was announced in 2019.
COVID-19 made the need for mental health care “more urgent,” according to local leaders, and the new Huntsman Mental Health Institute will continue to help Utahns years after the pandemic.
The university’s 170-bed hospital facility and network of outpatient clinics, formerly the University Neuropsychiatric Institute, are now under the new Huntsman Mental Health Institute brand.
Utah also has one of “the highest prevalence of youth with untreated mental health needs,” Good said, adding that “children from racial and ethnic minority populations frequently face a disproportionate likelihood of experiencing mental health disorders.”
“We are vaccinating against COVID-19, but none of us are immune from the effects of mental illness,” he said.
Since early 2020, Good said their crisis line workers have seen “a 30% increase in the amount of time they spend on the phone assisting individuals with complex mental health challenges.”
“At least at the outset of the pandemic when it started, we’re seeing rates of PTSD, depression and anxiety in emergency responders that look more like rates that we saw after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina,” said Dr. Andrew Smith, director of the occupational trauma program, who’s researching how COVID-19 affects health care workers.
The video released Thursday included Kaiti, a crisis counselor, who was identified only by her first name. When Kaiti answers the phone and asks how she can help, she said sometimes callers are crying.
“You know that they have been holding on to something for a long time,” Kaiti said.
She helps the callers take deep breaths, she said, and tries to connect with them about their lives.
“We all come from different backgrounds and have different perspectives, but the feelings are the same. I know what it feels like to be hopeless. I know what it feels like to be fearful and anxious. I know what it feels like to be depressed. So, that is something that I can touch on,” she said.
“I feel like it’s just a comfort of knowing I can say everything that’s been inside me, and it’s their job to listen,” she said.
The institute’s logo, which was unveiled Thursday, includes the outline of a person’s head with a heart inside, which health care leaders said show how mental health is connected to physical health. David Huntsman, president and COO, and Christena Huntsman Durham, who is the executive vice president of the Huntsman Foundation, revealed the brand and highlighted what’s been accomplished since the institute was announced.
“We have advanced research initiatives related to suicide and the impact of COVID on mental health,” “created programs to address mental health challenges facing students on campus,” “worked to integrate mental health care in primary care practices and advanced training,” and “worked with state leaders and lawmakers to identify and address the gaps that exist in mental health treatments in Utah,” according to David Huntsman. And there’s more to do, he said.
After he died in February 2018, his family promised to continue his philanthropic efforts.
Editor’s note • Paul Huntsman, chairman of the board of the nonprofit Salt Lake Tribune, Inc., is one of Jon M. Huntsman Sr.’s sons.