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Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

UC Davis Mental Health Initiative to hold annual mental health conference

The primary purpose of the event is to create a space dedicated to promoting mental health awareness and discussion


By RAGAVI GOYAL — campus@theaggie.org


On the weekend of Feb. 17 and 18, the UC Davis Mental Health Initiative (MHI) will hold its annual mental health conference at the UC Davis Conference Center. The theme of this year’s conference is “Look Forth,” and admission is free.  

The conference first began in 2015 and is now one of the largest student-run conferences in California, according to Astha Soni, a fourth-year psychology and human development double major and unit director of MHI. 

With several planned workshops, seminars from keynote speakers, caucuses led by MHI and interactive healing spaces, Soni said that the primary goal of the two-day event is to create a space to discuss mental health issues. 

The organization began planning for this event over a year in advance, according to Antonio Valencia Gallardo, a fourth-year psychology and human development double major and unit director of MHI.

“The planning begins with reserving space for the event in advance, reaching out to the keynote speakers beforehand and to other organizations asking them to be a part of the conference, as well as asking other student organizations on campus to have performances and participate in our conference,” Gallardo said. “There’s also a lot of graphic work that needs to be done, [which is] why we start pretty early.”

The funding for this conference is allocated through ASUCD. 

“Being a part of student government gives us the opportunity [to use] school funding, which is really nice,” Soni said. “We’re usually able to cover most of our conference expenses through the budget that we’re allocated.”

However, planning the conference has become more difficult for MHI, especially coming back from the pandemic, according to Soni.

“Last year was our first year back in person, hosting an in-person conference,” Soni said. “So it was a little harder to get attendees. The main challenge [we] face is advertising and getting attendees to come.” 

Gallardo said that students should attend the event because it has something to offer to everyone. 

“We provide so many activities that you have a place to learn or do something, no matter what you attend,” Gallardo said. “We also have really cute merchandise coming up because of the conference.”

For example, Gallardo said that the Mental Health Association of San Francisco will be hosting a mental health crisis and first aid training at the conference. The training will teach attendees about steps that one should take when they or their peers are struggling with their mental health, according to Gallardo.

Soni and Gallardo also outlined another workshop that will take place at the conference in partnership with Rethink Ice Cream, an ice cream company based in California that was founded on the basis of mental health advocacy. Soni said that this workshop will be especially interesting as the company will discuss the process of creating their ice cream business with addiction recovery in mind and how this intersects with mental health. 

There will be several other activities related to topics such as body positivity, social activism with mental health, queer and trans mental health and bipolar mental health, according to Soni. 

“We encourage people to attend the conference to take a break from whatever they might find overwhelming and to give people space to practice self-care and teach them about what self-care can do,” Gallardo said. 

Students wanting to attend can find the pre-register link for the conference through the MHI Instagram page. All pre-registered attendees will receive a wellness goodie bag, according to their social media page, as well as a food voucher for food trucks and exclusive merchandise. 


Written by: Ragavi Goyal — campus@theaggie.org



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