Suicide Prevention Conference Focuses on Youth and the Healing Power of Story Telling


September 4, 2019

It is critical for people of all ages to know that mental health disorders are real illnesses, especially as the rate of suicide is increasing, most notably among youth. These health conditions should not be a cause for shame or embarrassment. To help eliminate the misunderstanding about mental health disorders and the resulting stigma and discrimination, some individuals have been open about their struggles and how they are coping and, in many cases, thriving. Such story telling is powerful and it helps the story tellers, as well as those with whom they share their experiences. Several compelling story tellers, both youth and adults, will be featured during the Seventh Annual Suicide Prevention Conference, Story Tellers: It's Never too Early to Talk to Children about Mental Health, presented by the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc. (NJAMHAA) and Attitudes In Reverse® (AIR™) and co-sponsored by Hackensack Meridian Health Carrier Clinic and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) - New Jersey Chapter. This event will be held on September 23, 2019, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the HOPE Tower, Hackensack Meridian Health Jersey Shore University Medical Center, 1945 Route 33, Neptune, NJ.

"Mental health is integral to our overall health and needs to be talked about with children throughout their school years and beyond. Only by educating youth about the signs of mental health disorders and the fact that they are real illnesses can we eliminate stigma and, as a result, encourage individuals to speak up when they are struggling," said Debra L. Wentz, PhD, President and CEO of NJAMHAA.

"Our mission is to prevent the tragedy of suicide by educating the community about mental health, including not only the disorders, but also strategies for strengthening mental health in both positive and challenging times," said AIR Co-founders Tricia Baker, YMHFA, CPDT-KA, and Kurtis Baker, YMHFA, CFP®. "We are proud to be working with NJAMHAA, AFSP and Hackensack Meridian Health Carrier Clinic to share critically important information and inspiring stories from individuals who have conquered or are on their way to overcoming the challenges that mental health disorders have presented in their lives."

The keynote presentations at this event will be Mental Health First Aid in Preventing Suicide by Jacqueline Bienenstock, DNP, RN-BC, Director, Acute Care, Hackensack Meridian Health - Carrier Clinic; and Child and Youth Suicide: A Growing Phenomenon that Needs to Be Reversed, by Maureen Brogan, LPC, Statewide Traumatic Loss Coalition Coordinator, Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, and Wendy Sefcik, Mental Health Advocate and Chair, New Jersey Youth Suicide Prevention Advisory Council.

In addition, Rebecca McLelland-Crawley, EdD, National Board Certified Teacher, Community Middle School, West Windsor-Plainsboro, NJ Regional School District, and some of her students will present on How Young People Are Struggling and How They are Working on Changing It. Following this presentation will be a panel discussion, Story Tellers: Healing and Helping Others, featuring Cynthia Chazen, Mental Health Advocate; Peter Lee Kramer, a student at Rider University pursuing a degree in psychology; and Fiona Purcell, author of The Queen who Saved Herself, a book that helps adults speak with children about substance use disorders.

After the panel discussion, Tricia Baker and Dr. Thomas A. Smith, Superintendent, Hopewell Valley Regional School District, will share the impact of AIR's Therapy Dog Program. The conference will end on an inspiring note with a performance by Tess Cameron, a teenager with musical and other artistic talents.

Click here to register for this event.

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