Thursday, June 16, 2016

Press Release: "Down But Not Out" Discussion at The Sojourner Auditorium, Virtual Ability Island (Full)

We invite you to attend the symposium and tell your friends about it. In fact, bring them along, especially if they are skeptical about the value of virtual worlds.

See below for details about the presenters and their topics, and join us on the 18th of June as we explore latest approaches in the improvement of quality of life for people with mental illness.

SATURDAY June 18, 2016
Times listed are US Pacific Daylight Time/Second Life Time.

8:30am - Brain Mechanism Linking Stress and Illness, Dr. Vanja Duric
Significant research evidence suggests that psychological and physical stress is a powerful driving force behind both the etiology of and comorbidity between psychiatric and systemic disorders. This is supported by clinical observations that psychiatric symptoms and mental illness are commonly present in patients with chronic systemic diseases. Indeed, mood disorders such as depression are present in up to 50% of these patients, often resulting in impaired physical recovery and more complex treatment regimen. Here we will discuss the recent physiological evidence linking chronic stress and systemic illness, such as activation of the immune response system and release of common inflammatory mediators. Finally, discovery of new drug targets is needed for development of better treatments for stress-related psychiatric illnesses as well as improvement of mental health aspects of different systemic diseases.

Presenter Bio:
Dr. Duric is an Assistant Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology at the Des Moines University in Iowa (US) where he is doing neurobiology research on brain events that underlie pathophysiology and treatment of mental illnesses, especially major depressive disorder (MDD). His primary focus is investigating the relationship between the inhibition of a major cellular signaling pathway that is involved in neuronal survival and development of depression. Dr. Duric is also interested in brain mechanisms that link depression and other neurological or systemic illnesses, such as chronic pain.

10:00am - Understanding the Emotional Aspects of Multiple Sclerosis, Andrea Arzt
Although Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a physical disability, it can have emotional consequences.  Initially, a newly diagnosed individual goes through an emotional grieving process. As the disease progresses and nerve cells in the brain become demyelinated, the damage can cause emotional changes. Additionally, some MS medications can affect emotions. Treating the emotional aspects of MS is as important as dealing with the physical health issues.

Presenter Bio:
Andrea Arzt, LCSW is Associate Vice President of Clinical Programs and Direct Services for the New York City-Southern New York Chapter of the National MS Society (US). She has worked for over 25 years with individuals with chronic illness and disabilities and their families.  Her special interest has been in working with people living with neurological diseases and injuries, with a focus for the past 13 years on Multiple Sclerosis.  In her current position at the National MS Society, she works closely with health care professionals who treat people with MS, and with MS researchers. She provides trainings on MS and psychosocial and emotional issues for professionals and as well as for people living with MS, and she develops programs for families and caregivers.

11:30am - Hippocrates Wept: Psychologically Surviving Modern Medicine During A Health Crisis, Colleen Crary, M.A. (SL: Anya Ibor)
So, you have an illness, and you think modern medicine can help. Think again: Often, fixing one medical problem can cause, multiply, or magnify other health issues. The stress over facing one’s mortality, the financial burden of illness, and the psychological effects of some
medications can be overwhelming. Learn how to psychologically navigate a profit-driven, “patient last” health care system before and during a health crisis. Take control over your care per your unique physiology and psychology.

Presenter Bio:
Colleen Crary is Anya Ibor in Second Life. A PTSD expert and advocate, Colleen/Anya is a tireless champion for international mental health policy and common sense solutions. Founder and CEO of Fearless Nation PTSD Support, she promotes care for all PTSD sufferers, their families, friends, and clinicians, war veterans, law enforcement personnel, emergency response workers, those traumatized by sexual abuse, child abuse, torture, human trafficking, hostage events and crime, man-made and natural disasters, and physical, psychological, and verbal trauma.

1:00pm - The ABCs of DBT, Rienna Rieko
What is DBT? DBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy. It was developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan in the 1980's to help people who struggled with Borderline Personality Disorder. The therapy mixes Zen Buddhist ideologies with Cognitive Behavior Therapy. While it was designed for people with a very specific disorder, the skills DBT teaches, such as learning how to be more present in today using Mindfulness techniques, learning how to be more effective in the area of Interpersonal Effectiveness, learning how to end suffering by engaging in Radical Acceptance, Improving the Moment and how to Distract and Self Soothe when life isnt easy, are useful for anyone in any set of circumstances.

Presenter Bio:
Rienna Rieko has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and worked as a sober companion for a substance abuse treatment facility that specializes in Amino Acid protocols. In her time there, she used Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills with her clients and taught them how to put them into practice. She has used DBT in her own life for ten years and enjoys teaching the skills to everyone she knows because everyone can benefit from learning how to use them.

2:30pm - Faith & Health: Research, Clinical Applications, and Resources, Dr. Harold Koenig
Religion and spirituality play a role in coping with illness, loss and trauma. Dr. Koenig will review research on the relationships between religion, spirituality and mental health, with a focus on depression.  His research led to development of a proposed spiritually-oriented psychotherapy for the treatment of moral injury in veterans and active duty military with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Dr. Koenig will also speak about research on religion/spirituality and physical health, with an emphasis on cardiovascular disease and overall mortality.  He will explain how religious involvement positively influences health in monotheistic religious traditions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam).  He will explore applications to clinical practice, and describe his current study to integrate spirituality into patient care in outpatient physician practices.

Presenter Bio:
Dr. Koenig is Director, Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health and Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center, Georgia, US. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Medicine at King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Public Health, Ningxia Medical University, Yinchuan, People’s Republic of China. Dr. Koenig has published extensively in the fields of mental health, geriatrics, and religion, and his research on religion, health and ethical issues in medicine has been featured in popular journalism. His latest book is Health and Well-being in Islamic Societies. Dr. Koenig has testified before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on the benefits of religion and spirituality on public health.

4:00pm - Mental Health Outreach in Second Life: Past, Present, and Future, Dr. Tammy Fletcher (SL: Avalon Birke)
We will look back on a decade of mental health resources in Second Life – where we have been, where we are now, and some goals for the future. What worked, what didn’t, and ways we can continue to offer quality, ethical support for SL residents.

Presenter Bio:
Tammy Fletcher is Avalon Birke in Second Life, founder of Wellness Island (2006-2011), Second Life’s first sim devoted entirely to mental health resources for residents. As one of the first practitioners to bring mental health resources into Second Life in 2006, Dr. Fletcher has worked to help SL residents become educated consumers, and to bridge to RL services when needed. She founded “Guiding Lights,” a formal program of instruction for peer counselors in Second Life, and established gridwide “SOS” kiosks for residents needing RL emergency referrals anywhere in the world. In her real life, Dr. Fletcher is an author, educator, advocate, and licensed psychotherapist. She maintains an active private practice, where she specializes in treating anxiety and depressive disorders from an integrative perspective. Dr. Fletcher has been featured twice in programs by SL machinimist Draxtor Despres, discussing mental health and advocacy in a virtual environment.

5:00pm - Poetic Reflections
This will be a welcome change of pace, a presentation of poetry written by talented individuals, exploring at the human aspect of living with mental illness.

6:00pm - Lifestyle Medicine and Supplementation for Mental Health and Psychiatric Disorders, Dr. Jerome Sarris

An examination of the use of nutraceutical supplements in mental health treatment.

Presenter Bio:
As an NHMRC Clinical Senior Research Fellow at The University of Melbourne, Australia, Dr. Sarris has a particular interest in anxiety and mood disorder research pertaining to complementary and lifestyle medicine, nutraceuticals, and integrative mental health. Author of numerous publications and recipient of significant research grants, Dr. Sarris advocates for an integrative approach to mental health through evidence-based use of lifestyle modification, psychological techniques, and both complementary and standard pharmacotherapy.

7:30pm - The National Disability Insurance Scheme - Supporting Australians Living With Mental Health Issues, Louse Dibbs and Lyn Ainsworth
Australia has made an extraordinary commitment to major social reform with the establishment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme – Australia’s response to its commitment under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability. The associated reforms shift support from a welfare model to an entitlement or rights based model, and are designed to provide greater choice and control for people with disabilities, and better personal outcomes. However, the road to having mental illness recognised and well supported under the scheme has not been straightforward. After a period of discourse and advocacy during the trial site stage, people living with a Psychological or Psychiatric Diagnosis, as their primary disability, have been recognised as entitled to supports. This means that people with recurring, chronic or significant long term mental health issues have access to resources to develop holistic support plans that foster better long term personal outcomes. HWNS has been a lead provider in the NDIS launch site in the Hunter Region, NSW, Australia where we have supported more than 400 people to transition to the scheme. A significant number of these people have a Psychological or Psychiatric Diagnosis  as their primary or only disability.  We will present two case studies to demonstrate the enhanced possibilities and outcomes the NDIS is providing as a result of access to holistic planning and the implementation of individualised supports.

Presenter Bio:
About Louise Dibbs:
Louise has had a 15 year journey working in the community sector, commencing as a frontline worker, progressing to supervisory roles and finally most recently in senior management.  Louise also has several years experience in the corporate/business sector as a Human Resource professional which has embedded a strong customer experience ethos in her work. She has a Master of Arts in Psychology and is a certified trainer and assessor. In the past 3 years Louise has been working for House with No Steps in one of the key National Disability Insurance Schemes launch sites, in the Hunter region. Louise has worked with teams to transition approx. 400 participants to the Scheme. Louise's interests and work passions include Human Rights, organisational change, mentoring/coaching, developing individuals and teams, influencing and leading, and  designing systems. Outside of work, Louise enjoys anything active or travel related, with her husband and three teenage daughters.

About Lyn Ainsworth:
Ms Lyn Ainsworth, Head of Strategy, Excellence & Innovation at House with No Steps has 18 years executive management experience in the disability sector, including her current role with House with No Steps, one of Australia’s largest disability services non-government organisations. HWNS has been at the forefront of the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Australia’s response to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with a Disability, and extraordinary social reform. Lyn is a lawyer by background and has supported organisational transformation around Human Rights as well as having leadership responsibility for HWNS’ international accreditation with the Council on Quality and Leadership (CQL).

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