Loneliness has reached epidemic levels in the United States, with as much as half the population feeling socially disconnected at any given time. The U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, issued an advisory (PDF) on May 2 about loneliness and “the healing effects of social connection and community.”

Depression and suicide are also on the rise.

“Mental health is the defining public health crisis of our time,” Murthy said during an onstage conversation with Oprah Winfrey on May 4 at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

The two discussed loneliness, mental health and what makes life meaningful during WOW 2023, UCLA Health’s annual mental health summit.

Other guests who spoke with Winfrey during the three-hour program included Oscar- and Grammy-winning musician Jon Batiste, author and Harvard Business School professor Arthur Brooks and three UCLA students who shared their personal experiences with mental health challenges. Actress Lisa Kudrow hosted the event.

The inspiring program, a fundraiser for the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, honored philanthropists Andrea and Peter Roth, who recently donated $1 million to support autism research and intervention. It was also announced that a grant for early-career faculty at the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital would be named in honor of Winfrey.

Read more about the event on the UCLA Health website.