Second gentleman Emhoff, Gov. Brown join campus roundtable

Panel members at discussion

University of Oregon leaders and faculty members joined Gov. Kate Brown, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff and track athlete Noah Lyles on Friday for a roundtable discussion on raising awareness about mental health.

Also on the agenda was the role university research on prevention and intervention support can play in addressing what is now considered a national crisis.

UO President Michael H. Schill, interim dean of the College of Education Laura Lee McIntyre, and Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education and Student Success Kimberly Johnson represented the UO in the discussion.

They heard firsthand about the mental health struggles athletes face, but they also had a broader conversation about the importance of awareness, prevention and evidence-based support, as well as the critical need to destigmatize the issue.

“Mental health affects all Americans, especially our underserved and underrepresented communities,” said Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris. “We need to be sure we all shine a light on this issue as best we can. If we can desensitize it and make it okay to talk about, we can literally save lives. The stakes are high.”

Schill and Brown shared with Emhoff the UO’s recently launched Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health and how it will be instrumental in creating a new workforce of behavioral health specialists to begin filling a critical need in the state’s schools.

“The University of Oregon is pleased to bring our faculty and researchers’ expertise in prevention science, psychology, neuroscience and early education to help address the nation’s urgent mental and behavioral health crisis,” said Schill, who thanked Brown for her support of the Ballmer Institute and Emhoff for the Biden-Harris administration’s support of public research on prevention and intervention programs.

“I have been pleased to partner with the University of Oregon in launching the new Ballmer Institute, which will be a first-of-its-kind behavioral health education facility that will help us create a more diverse workforce,” Brown added.

Lyles, who is in Eugene to compete in the World Athletics Championships Oregon22, candidly shared some of his background and the mental health challenges he has faced, adding how critical family support was to him.

“This topic hits close to home for me and I look forward to continuing these conversations to support athletes and prioritizing this important issue,” Lyles said.