Creating Community at the Healthier Longer Lives Conference

Posted on November 15, 2018

Fountain House and our partners at the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Global Mental Health at Columbia University Medical CenterGrand Challenges Canada and citiesRISE are grateful to the more than 250 stakeholders who came together at Healthier Longer Lives for People with Serious Mental Illness to create a global community focused on finding solutions to improve and extend the lives of people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression.

Activities kicked off on November 7th with Asylum(s): Reframing the Narrative, a panel discussion held at Fountain House in advance of the conference. The afternoon brought more than 100 thought leaders together to explore what humane treatment for people with serious mental illness should look like in the 21st century. The conversation drew significant attention from the media including an interview of Fountain House Medical Director Ralph Aquila and Mental Health Advocate Betty Eastland on CBS National News. You can watch that segment here: "Renewed calls for Psychiatric Hospitals". You can also view an archive of the live stream of Asylum(s): Reframing the Narrative here:

The Healthier Longer Lives conference officially began on Thursday, November 8th. Two days of programming included dynamic plenaries, keynote speeches, parallel sessions and roundtables led by distinguished global researchers, scientists, policymakers, practitioners and philanthropists. Regional and cross-sectoral partnerships were built with the singular purpose of working together to inspire action, change policy and bring serious mental illness out of the shadows.

Launch of the WHO Guidelines at Healthier Longer Lives

A highlight on day one of the conference was the official launch of the World Health Organization guidelines on the management of physical health conditions in adults with severe mental disorders. The guidelines will be made available to healthcare providers treating people with serious mental illness everywhere, and are a product of Fountain House’s four-year partnership with WHO. 

An Op-ed about the guidelines and the need for a “Community System of Care” to reduce excess mortality, co-authored by Shekhar Saxena, Visiting Professor at the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health (former Director of Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the World Health Organization) and Fountain House Medical Director Ralph Aquila was published in STAT News. You can read it here: “People with serious mental illness tend to die prematurely. We can fix that.”

Latin America and Youth Panels at Healthier Longer Lives

The launch of the WHO guidelines at the conference made news as far away as Argentina, with an article entitled “Las personas con enfermedades mentales pueden vivir hasta 20 años menos que el resto” appearing in the nation’s most widely read publication, Clarin. A delegation of health ministers, researchers and practitioners from several Latin American countries attended and presented at the conference.

Youth and serious mental illness was another well-covered topic at Healthier Longer Lives. Amy Kennedy of The Kennedy Forum delivered an extraordinary keynote about early intervention and citiesRISE coordinated a panel discussion between young mental health advocates. Elizabeth Bradley, President of Vassar, supplemented her in-person presentation with an Op-ed “Young Adults and the Burden of Mental Illness” which appeared in Thrive Global.

The final session of the conference, The Way Forward, captured the commitments of a cross-section of stakeholders to develop, grow, and sustain solutions and best practices for ensuring people with serious mental illness live healthier, longer lives. Fountain House’s President Kenneth J. Dudek pledged to share our successful, cost-effective, community-based approach with the world through the Fountain House Center for Leadership and Education, which trains future clubhouse leaders to replicate our model. If you are interested in learning more about the Fountain House approach, contact the Fountain House Center for Leadership and Education at

Fountain House and our conference partners are deeply grateful to the generous sponsors who made Healthier Longer Lives a reality. Their support made the participation of representatives from low-and-middle-income countries possible. 

Stead Family Foundation

Dauten Family Foundation

Sidney R. Baer Jr. Foundation

Johnson & Johnson

NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Sutter Health

Clubhouse International

Center for Reintegration

An archive of the Healthier Longer Lives conference live stream can be viewed here.




Awards + Recognition

BBB Accredited Charity

Our Global Partners

World Health Organization

Sign up for the Fountain House monthly newsletter