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In 2021, as Schroeder Stribling accepted her new role as President and CEO of Mental Health America, she remarked that “We face a unique and critical moment in our national history as we emerge from the collective trauma of the pandemic.” She then, listed the challenges we face as a nation and concluded, “In all of this, mental health will take center stage.” That’s why she’s the perfect Keynote Speaker for this year’s Faith & Action Project Spring Conference, focused on the connection between poverty and mental health and what our community can do to de-stigmatize both human conditions and create scalable solutions that help people get the help they need when they need it most.

Stribling makes the assertion from a position of experience. She has worked closely with people facing some of society’s greatest challenges, most recently as CEO of N Street Village, a Washington, D.C., organization providing housing support for women and families. Before that, she worked as a senior social worker at Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital. In both of those roles she saw firsthand the relationship between poverty and mental health.

In a role early in her career, she discovered the virtue of breaking down barriers and exercising radical empathy. One of her articles – “Wondering Where to Start? Love Richard” – demonstrates this radical empathy, which she initially described as a fondness for a patient she met while working as an intern in a state hospital. When she cautiously admitted to a colleague that she had “violated the ethical boundaries” by feeling love for a patient, the colleague chided her by saying, “Oh, please … you know that’s a good thing.”

It is a good thing, Stribling notes in the article, because those boundaries she thought she should not cross reinforce destructive power dynamics, perpetuate mistaken perceptions and create the illusion that the problems in our communities are individual failures rather than failures of “we the-society.” Stribling concludes the article by saying, “My wish for every American would be to feel love for an unlikely other. Imagine the power of millions of hearts unleashed in empathy. Just imagine the change, just imagine the good that would come from that.”

Register today to attend the Faith & Action Project Spring Conference and find out more about how Stribling suggests we put this kind of empathy into action, and hear how local leaders are working to address the connections between mental health and poverty.