Submitted by Niagara University
Recent tragedies in Charleston, South Carolina, and Aurora, Colorado, have exacerbated the need to educate the general public on how to identify and respond to mental illness, both in the workplace and in everyday situations.
As a result, the Mental Health Association in Niagara County Inc. is teaming up with Niagara University and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center to present "Changing Our Minds: A Mental Health Summit." The event is open to the public and recommended for anyone who wants to be more aware and better prepared to respond to individuals with psychiatric vulnerabilities.
The summit will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, at Niagara University. The cost is $15 per person.
This program will include speakers and presentations, demonstrations, useful training materials and more. Attendees will learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness in those around them, and learn how to respond in a supportive manner in assisting people in accessing the mental health services they need.
Eric Weaver, a retired sergeant with the Rochester Police Department and the founder of Overcoming the Darkness, will speak on the importance of overcoming the stigma of mental health. Maryalice Demler, news anchor for WGRZ-TV in Buffalo - a 1986 alumna of Niagara University - will serve as the master of ceremonies. The event also will feature a resource fair composed of vital local community service agencies, providing an opportunity for attendees to become familiar with the people and programs that support mental health.
Dr. Timothy Osberg, a professor of psychology at Niagara University and a licensed psychologist who will be speaking at the summit, said mental health issues have been growing on campus as well as in the community.
"It is critically important that more people have the willingness and skills to help others in crisis so that fewer tragedies occur," Osberg said.
He said the summit will provide all attendees - whether they are faculty, staff and students of Niagara University or members of the larger community - with the needed skills.
Mental Health Association in Niagara County Executive Director Cheryl Blacklock noted that, with the rise in suicides among youth and the prevalence of mental health in general, the conference will play an important role in addressing the stigma of mental illness.
"We have to have open discussions about mental health if we are going to improve prevention and treatment," Blacklock said.
"Educating and sensitizing members of the community is a vitally important task," said Christopher Kijowski, LCSW, supervisor of outpatient behavioral health at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. "Compassion is an important value, as it helps to confirm the belief that the transformation of the mind and heart are possible for every human being."
Businesses and other organizations are encouraged to send at least one employee to attend the summit, and to designate that person as a "mental health ambassador."
For more information, call the Mental Health Association in Niagara County Inc. at 716-433-3780, ext. 304. To register online, visit www.mhanc.com.