CALL FOR ABSTRACTS — APHA 2021 Annual Meeting and Expo

Mental Health

Meeting theme: "Creating the Healthiest Nation: Strengthening Social Connectedness"

Submission Deadline: Sunday, March 21, 2021

The Mental Health Section program attracts practitioners, policy makers, researchers, students, and advocates from diverse disciplines who are involved in public behavioral health. Our sessions provide thoughtful venues where evidence is considered from multiple perspectives. We would like to be the forum through which you showcase your research, policy or practice at the 2021 Annual APHA Meeting & Expo.

Topics and Cross-Cutting Themes

The Mental Health Section program supports a population health framework that acknowledges the roles of culture, genetics, and social determinants in health and mental health; addresses the impact of stigma; promotes evidence-based practice and policy targeting mental health challenges; and recognizes the importance of health promotion, prevention, early detection, and early intervention.

The Mental Health Section provides a forum to address how issues of health care access and multiple forms of inequality affect the mental health and resilience of communities and groups of individuals.  We encourage research, policies, and practices focusing on prevention, health promotion, social justice, and human rights. We are interested in emerging best practices, the organization and financing of services, workforce development, approaches to implementation, and bringing innovation to scale.  The Mental Health Section maintains a focus on policy and practice that affect marginalized groups whose opportunities to thrive are diminished by mental illness, developmental disorders, and co-occurring behavioral and physical health challenges.  We welcome evidence-based abstracts that address these issues within a public mental health framework, and consider quantitative, mixed, and rigorous qualitative methods; including case studies in policy implementation, community-based, and stakeholder engaged approaches.

The Mental Health Section is committed to supporting the development of its student members. We strongly encourage student abstracts and each year honor one student paper with the Kenneth Lutterman Award for Graduate and Professional Student Research. Awardees are honored at our annual reception with a plaque and provided a complementary conference registration. Details about how to self-nominate and submit your abstract for this Award are found at the end of this Call for Abstracts.

Suggested Topics for Submission

We look forward to creating an educational program for the Conference that enhances attendees’ knowledge and application of cutting-edge research and policy in their respective disciplines. The topic areas below broadly represent issues critical to public mental health that are of interest to Section members. Under each topic we have included examples of relevant content for guidance when submitting your abstract; these are not meant to be an exhaustive list within each topic. Please choose the topic area that most closely fits your abstract, reserving “Other Mental Health Topics” for abstracts that have no overlap with any suggested topics.

***To highlight and support the 2021 Conference theme, "Strengthening Social Connectedness", we are especially interested in abstracts at the intersection of the topics listed below and concerns, issues, or innovations related to the role of social connection in enhancing mental health and wellbeing. Topics may include the following: school connectedness, virtual interactions or social media, virtual or technology-based interventions, faith communities and religion and social connection, peer support or consumer-run programming, social connection and mental health for special populations (e.g., veterans, older adults, LGBTQ individuals, children, non-dominant cultures and communities), social connection and mental health stigma, social connections in the workplace, the role of social connection in addressing grief and loss, ACEs, trauma, or community disaster, assessment and interventions related to family, peer, or social connections at the individual, group, or community level, public policy impacts on social connection, and social connection across the lifespan.***

We understand that the topics listed are not mutually exclusive and that your submission may span multiple topics.  Accepted abstracts will be grouped with abstracts of complementary content to create sessions.

  • Community Resilience
    • Community preparedness and resilience in the face of climate and related disasters
    • Social connectedness
    • Violence prevention
    • Systemic strategies to implement trauma informed approaches
  • Discrimination and Vulnerable Populations
    • Reframing mental health as a social justice issue
    • Issues related to social determinants of mental health
    • Interventions for vulnerable populations and their families that promote behavioral health and wellness
    • Prevalence and disparities in the treatment of mental illnesses and behavioral health challenges; mental health of and interventions for religious minorities
    • Racism and disparities/disproportionality in individual and community well-being and mental health
  • Families and Children across the Lifespan
    • Policy and/or practice approaches for perinatal and post-partum mental health
    • Children’s mental health services
    • Transition-age youth mental health
    • Supportive services for families
  • Global Mental Health
    • Any behavioral or mental health issues that affect immigrant and refugee populations
    • Policies, practices, and interventions that address the global mental health treatment gap
  • Integrated Behavioral Health: Mental Health and Substance Use
    • Basic research on co-occurring disorders
    • Prevention of substance use in the context of mental health treatment
    • Program performance measures
    • Integration of physical health, mental health, and substance abuse services
    • Innovative, evidence-based approaches to treatment
  • Integrated Health Promotion Strategies for Mental Wellbeing and Social Connection
    (organized jointly with Public Health Education and Health Promotion Section)

    • Strategies to effectively promote mental wellbeing through integration with public health interventions, including those promoting social connection
    • Basic research on the associations between social connection, mental health, and physical health
  • Mental Health and the Environment
    • Mental health impacts of environmental and natural disasters
    • Well-being and mental health in the built environment
    • Interventions that conceive of social connectivity as linkages to all components of the surrounding natural environment 
    • Examination of how notions of connectivity and wellbeing are tied to Western cultural values that rely on consumption of planetary resources 
  • Public Mental Health Policy and Practice
    • Approaches for coordination among public health authorities, providers, and communities
    • Innovative organizational approaches and practice that integrate behavioral health, role of public health accreditation
    • Financing
    • Approaches and innovations that address the needs of individuals and families dealing with severe mental health challenges
    • Mental Health Parity
    • Parity compliance and enforcement for people across the severity spectrum of mental health challenges
    • Interventions to promote prevention
  • Services Access, Outreach, and Engagement
    • Interventions to combat stigma
    • Access to services and benefits such as insurance
    • Use of technology and social media to engage individuals in mental health services
    • Practices and interventions to improve access to and meaningful engagement in mental health services
    • Innovative outreach approaches for reducing delays in entry to care and disparities in who accesses effective treatments
  • Suicide
    • Outreach and engagement of high-risk groups
    • Suicide life-line services; prevention
    • Assistance for survivors of suicide and for families impacted by suicide
    • Financing suicide prevention initiatives
  • Veterans and Active Military Mental Health
    • Any behavioral or mental health issues that affect veterans or active-duty military and their families
    • Policies, practices, and interventions that address Veterans’ mental health
  • Workforce Development
    • Integration of peer professionals
    • Addressing training, funding, competency, and retention needs of the behavioral health workforce
    • Increasing transportability and fidelity of evidence-based interventions in community practice settings
  • Other Mental Health Topics

*Please check back before the abstract submission deadlines for late breaking topic requests and instructions. Submitted abstracts can be modified up until the deadline.


Abstracts must be submitted electronically through the APHA abstract management web site (see “start abstract submission” link below). The web site provides complete instructions on the length and format of abstracts.  You may also contact the Program Chair, Dr. Genevieve Graaf, for clarification or assistance.

Abstracts may be submitted for a 15-20-minute oral presentation (that will be grouped by the Program Planner into an oral session), a poster, or as part of a full 90 minute “Special Session” that is constructed on a topic chosen by the submitters. Instructions for Special Sessions are given at the end of this Call for Abstracts.


 Please use one of the following two abstract formats that best fits your submission:

1) Typically used for quantitative research

  •  Background: Study objectives, hypothesis, or a description of the problem
  •  Methods: Study design, including a description of participants, procedures, measures, and   appropriate statistical analyses; dates of data collection
  •  Results: Specific results in summary form
  •  Conclusions: Description of the main outcome of the study and implications for research, policy, or practice

2) For description and analysis of community initiatives, policy or program implementation studies, innovative strategies designed to impact disparities, and other descriptive or exploratory research

  •  Background/Context: Why Now? What challenge is this policy, program, initiative, or strategy designed to address?
  •  Description: Design of the project, policy, service, or advocacy program
  •  Lessons Learned: A brief description of results
  •  Recommendations/Implications: Implications for research, policy, or practice, including recommendations and next steps

Abstracts are limited to 350 words or less.

 Review Criteria

All abstracts are blind reviewed by three reviewers using the following criteria:  

  1. Adherence to specified abstract format with all sections complete
  2. Innovation and timeliness of the issue
  3. Relevance to the APHA meeting theme of “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Strengthening Social Connectedness”
  4. Rigor, clarity, and appropriateness of methods/logic-model to the question
  5. Issue, methods, approach, or conclusions are person-centered or informed by stakeholders
  6. Clarity of results/lessons learned. For work in progress, state preliminary findings or list results that will be presented.
  7. Significance of findings/implications for research, policy, or practice
  8. Overall Quality
  9. Compliance with continuing education credit requirements.

Abstracts must comply with Continuing Education Credit requirements in order to be accepted into the conference program; see below for detailed instructions.  

Incomplete abstracts will not be reviewed. Only research that will be completed by October 2021 will be accepted.

To assist you in preparing your abstract and understanding related rules and regulations, APHA provides these online instructions:



The final program will be designed based on peer-reviewed evaluations of the abstract proposals with consideration for available time and space, the program theme, diversity of topics, and topics being presented by invited speakers.  The Mental Health Section program will include: 1) poster and oral sessions compiled from the highest scored, individually contributed abstracts, 2) Special Sessions that are fully compiled and coordinated by submitting parties; 3) invited sessions and roundtables on important topics identified by section leadership.  We try to honor your preference for an oral or poster session, but Program Planners may reassign abstracts to make the best use of the limited and highly competitive oral sessions.

Acceptance notices will be sent to abstract authors June 1, 2021.  Waitlisted abstracts may be invited to participate if accepted abstracts are withdrawn. Abstracts accepted for the APHA Annual Meeting may not be presented at any other meeting or published in any journal prior to October 23, 2021.

If your presentation is accepted, you will be asked to register to attend the Annual Meeting. If you’re not already, please consider becoming a member of APHA and joining the Mental Health Section. APHA is our primary public health advocate - your membership in the Mental Health Section will strengthen the voice for public mental health.  The Mental Health Section provides opportunities well beyond the Annual Meeting for you to share your expertise and network with nationally known researchers, administrators, planners, epidemiologists and policy professionals in public mental health.  Finally, as our membership grows, so does our number of presentation slots, increasing our ability to offer you a space in an oral or poster session. 

Neither APHA nor the Mental Health Section provides financial support for presenter attendance at the Annual Meeting.



Proposals for Special Sessions (90 minutes in length) may be submitted. Each individual abstract for the 3-4 papers to be included in a Special Session must be submitted electronically via the online conference submission AND a one-page Overview of the proposed Session MUST be submitted directly to the planners via email by the MH Section Abstract deadline to Dr. Genevieve Graaf at

We encourage Special-Sessions to allow time for discussion and questions from the audience.  Consider a point/counterpoint format or a panel discussion that directly engages the audience. Highlight either of these formats in the Overview and consider the time required to do this effectively.

If the session will include the release of any new reports or data, this should be mentioned in the proposal, along with any plans to promote the session to news media.

 Include in your One-page Overview

  • Title of the Special Session
  • Names of lead facilitator and the contact person (may be the same individual)
  • Brief overview of the rationale for the Session including how each abstract contributes to the session topic
  • List, in presentation order, each individual abstract title and presenter’s name as they were submitted to APHA; and the time you plan to allocate for each presentation and discussion period.

Submit each individual abstract separately to the APHA electronic abstract submission process. In the "Comments to Organizers" box for each abstract submission, include the following language: “This abstract should be considered as part of (title of Special Session).”

All abstracts are reviewed on their individual merit; the acceptance of a Special Session does not guarantee that all abstracts submitted for that session will be accepted. Unless instructed otherwise, the Mental Health Section Program Committee will consider the individual abstracts from any rejected Special Session for the program and will assign them to the session(s) where they fit best.

If accepted, organizers and presenters will be requested to complete a conflict-of-interest disclosure.


Each year, the Mental Health Section recognizes an excellent student paper with the Kenneth Lutterman Award. You must self-nominate. Authors of qualifying abstracts are invited to write a full paper to be considered for the Award. APHA conference registration is covered for the award recipient and the awardee receives a plaque and recognition at our annual reception. Additionally, Lutterman Awardees receive a complementary student member for the following year. To place your abstract in consideration for this award, follow these directions:

When you submit your abstract, self-nominate for the Kenneth Lutterman Award in two places in the APHA online abstract submission webpage:

  1.  In the “Step 2 (title)” section, locate “Presenting Author and Awards Submission. Consider this paper for the following award.” Check the “Ken Lutterman Award” drop-down box.  AND


  1. In the “Comments to Organizers” open-field box, include a note stating that you are self-nominating for the Kenneth Lutterman Award.

If your abstract qualifies, you will be asked to submit a full 10-page paper for the Lutterman student paper award by early April 2021 for review by the Awards Committee. At that time, you must verify that the submitted work was done as a student enrolled in a graduate or professional degree program, that you are a member of the APHA Mental Health Section, and your expected date of degree completion.


APHA values the ability to provide continuing education credit to physicians, nurses, health educators, and those certified in public health at its annual meeting. Please complete all required information when submitting an abstract so members can claim credit for attending your session. These credits are necessary for members to keep their licenses and credentials.

All continuing education learning content must be of sound science or professional practice and serve to maintain, develop, or increase the knowledge, skills and professional competence of the health professional. Learning content should be evidence-based if available.

The Mental Health Section has made offering continuing education credit for its oral scientific sessions a priority. Completion of the following information is a criterion for accepting an abstract into the conference program.

For a session to be eligible for Continuing Education Credit:  

All abstracts must be free of trade and/or commercial product names

EXAMPLE: State “a major urban health care provider” rather than naming a for-profit business or its products.

  • All abstracts must include at least one MEASURABLE SINGLE outcome Use ONLY the following Measurable Action Verbs: Explain, Demonstrate, Analyze, Formulate, Discuss, Compare, Differentiate, Describe, Name, Assess, Evaluate, Identify, Design, Define or List.  Please note that “to understand” or “to learn” are not measurable outcomes and should NOT be used.  Compound outcomes are NOT acceptable.

EXAMPLE: Compare risk for incarceration by mental health diagnosis, age and race/ethnicity.

Presenting authors must complete and sign the Conflict-of-Interest Disclosure Form provided during the online abstract submission.  This includes a relevant qualification statement that specifically justifies their presentation of the material.  Please note that a general statement of the author’s training or degrees earned, or a statement that the author is the Principal Investigator/Project Coordinator for the study are not adequate qualification statements.

EXAMPLE 1: I am qualified because I have worked in this area for the last six years. I was a member of the team that conceptualized this project and have been actively involved in all aspects of its execution, including the evaluation of outcomes described in this presentation.

EXAMPLE 2: I am qualified because I have been the principal or co-principal of multiple federally funded grants focusing on the implementation of evidence-based practice for behavioral and chronic health conditions. The development of strategies for diffusion of innovation in public behavioral health treatment settings has been among my scientific interests.  

All continuing education learning content must be of sound science or professional practice and serve to maintain, develop, or increase the knowledge, skills and professional competence of the health professional. Learning content should be evidence-based if available.

During the online submission process, authors must select at least one continuing education core area that their abstract addresses. A list of over 30 areas will be provided online for you to choose from. You will be asked to choose at least one or up to 6 areas that your presentation will address.

Thank you for helping to make your session credit worthy. Contact Mighty Fine at  if you have any questions concerning continuing education. For program questions, contact Program Planner, Dr. Genevieve Graaf at


Program Planner Contact Information:

Genevieve Graaf, PhD


Robin Kimbrough-Melton, JD


Mary Jane Alexander, PhD


Alissa Phelps,


Betsy Barron,


Candice Biernesser,


Chandrakala Ganesh, PhD


Genevieve Graaf,


Kaitlyn Frick,


Hannah Stewart, MPH


Kathryn Washington,


Kobi Ajayi, MPH, MBA


Kaleea Lewis, PhD


Mae L'Heureux,


M. J. Scales, MPH, CPS


Rashad Freeman,


Alejandra Rivera,


Sherry (Ting-Jung) Sheu, MPH


Valerie Tsai,


Micki Washburn, PhD, LMSW, MA, LPC-S