West Liberty partners with NAMI to shed light on mental health

Kathleen Wack in front of the ASRC building.

Beginning on Thursday, Oct. 7 at 9 a.m, the West Liberty University College of Education and Human Performance will partner with NAMI Greater Wheeling (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to host their fourth annual “Shedding Light on Mental Health” virtual conference that is open to all citizens and health providers in the state of West Virginia.

This year’s four-day conference will offer professional speakers who specialize in topics ranging from eating and feeding disorders, epigenetics and the importance of prioritizing self-care. The following topics will be presented throughout each Thursday in the month of October where you can register online to attend. Regular registration is $60 for all four sessions or $20 per session, members of NAMI and students of WLU must pay $30 for all four sessions or $10 per session and graduate students seeking credits must pay an additional $180.

Being the largest grassroots mental health organization in the country, West Liberty’s College of Education and Human Performance established a partnership with NAMI in 2018 after seeing a need to communicate the significance of mental health education to community members and educators in the Ohio Valley. The Executive Director of NAMI, Julie Gomez, stated that West Liberty was a key partner in this collaboration due to their focus on school-based counselors, social workers, nurses and higher education providers.

“In our community, we were able to talk and learn among one another and now we are able to bring in national caliber presenters to seek growth beyond the Ohio Valley,” said Kathleen Wack, associate professor of health and physical education.

The speakers at this year’s conference are Dr. Jess Luzier, Jan Riley (Med), Lisa De Gonzales (MPH), Emily Maiurro (MHP), Jessica Fowler (LPC) and Dr. Rebecca Porter, all of which are highly trained professionals in the field of mental health studies.

Members of the planning community have been preparing for this event since the conclusion of last year’s conference by evaluating topics beneficial to the community and researching presenters with an expertise in the chosen field. Wack went on to explain that many people outside the realm of mental health with differing perspectives come together to ensure this conference runs smoothly. “We have worked with Theresa Gretchen of Topper Station to make sure the sessions are recorded so people can watch if they are unable to attend the conference. We also work with Samantha Wilson, our graphic designer, so that she can create programs and logos for marketing and advertising,” said Wack.

Other members who help host this mental health conference include: Adolescent Health Initiative Coordinator Melody Osborne (Marshall County Family Resource Network); and NAMI Greater Wheeling Program Manager Lauren Brown.

Wack believes there are many positives to attending this session, especially as a student in the field of education and human performance. Within each session, students can interact and network with a diverse group of professionals to open opportunities for their future. The second benefit of attending is getting to interact by asking direct questions in ways that are not possible through asynchronous conferences. Wack concluded her description of benefits by stating that students can achieve graduate credits while other professionals may receive certification to maintain their license through the continuous education units (CEU’s) offered in each session.

The list of professionals who can receive certification through the CEU’s include health care, social work, counseling, nursing, marriage and family therapists, psychology and law enforcement professionals.

Due to the prevalence of COVID during last year’s event, Gomez and her team decided to move this conference to a virtual format split into four sessions because they found it easier for people to sit through and comprehend the information in each session. NAMI allows people across the state to attend which led them to keeping this year’s program virtual to accommodate those who must travel long distances. According to Gomez, the typical turnout for this conference ranges from 50 to 70 people.

Wack believes that people who may be on the fence about attending this conference should go in with an open mind. “I think you’re going to find something in every session that you can connect back to your life regardless of your major and regardless of your age. It’s cutting edge information that is very important,” expressed Wack.

For more information about the “Shedding Light on Mental Health” Conference, please contact Julie Gomez executive director of NAMI Wheeling at [email protected] or visit NAMI of Wheeling’s website.