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The 2017 NAMI-NYS Education Conference took place on November 10-12 at the Desmond Hotel in Albany. More than 450 people attended to learn about the latest in research, treatment, advocacy and suicide prevention. Throughout the weekend the conference celebrated recovery in all its various forms while also presenting realistic depictions of how the systems that deliver mental health services need to be improved.

Presenters included national leaders in research and treatment from psychiatric disorders as well as people living with serious and persistent mental illnesses detailing their recovery and how they are using their experiences to help others. We want to express our deepest gratitude to all the presenters, exhibitors, sponsors, volunteers and of course our wonderful attendees who made the weekend such a success. We look forward to seeing many of you at our 2018 Conference taking place October 26-28th.

Click here to see an album of all the photos in the E-News on Facebook. While there, be sure to "like" our page.



For many, the highlight of the conference was the inaugural NAMI-NYS Honors Leaders in Mental Health Awareness celebrations on Friday night. The celebrations began on an emotional note as honoree musician Matt Butler presented his award to his mother who was in the audience. Matt discussed how his mother was integral in his recovery and how he hopes he has made her proud. Matt's acknowledgement was indicative of the crucial role family plays in recovery. Matt then went on to play several songs from his album Reckless Son as well as a couple of new ones. He discussed his experience playing psychiatric and rehab facilities as well as correction institutions and closed his performance with a rousing version of Johnny Cash's Folsom County Blues.

The evening's second honoree Keith O'Neil told his story, which is detailed in his new book Under My Helmet. Keith explained the determination he had that led him from being an un-drafted NFL free agent to Super Bowl champion and how that determination was needed in his struggle with bipolar disorder. He chronicled how he first noticed symptoms as a child, including the inability to sleep and his later difficulties in finding appropriate medications to manage his disease. He also explained how taking the NAMI Family-to-Family class helped his wife support him and his recovery.

The evening's final honoree, Ron Powers, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of No One Cares About Crazy People, delivered a true call to arms presentation. While he praised Matt and Keith's recovery, he made sure the audience knew that not everyone can establish the advanced recovery of his fellow honorees. He gave a true and honest account of how too many people living with a serious mental illness are in jails or prisons, living in the streets or pass away at a far too early age. His words rang true from a perspective that only a family member of a loved one who failed to receive the proper services can truly understand. It served as a reminder that while we have a lot to celebrate we still have more work to do to ensure that all people receive the proper services. He also thanked NAMI-NYS members for all they do to support other families and for their advocacy voice.

The emotional evening concluded with Matt Butler performing his inspiring song Just One. The song captured the theme of the night as while NAMI-NYS honored three individuals who are bringing attention to mental health, we also honored our NAMI-NYS members as they are leaders of awareness in their communities.





The conference began with special presentation by Dr. Anand Pandya, the co-founder of Disaster Psychiatry Outreach and former President of NAMI. Dr. Pandya detailed proper culturally component disaster response and the need to eliminate stigma in order to provide the best psychiatric services following a crisis and how that contributes to reducing suicide.

Following Dr. Pandya's remarks there was a presentation of colors and beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner sung by NAMI-NYS's Jean Ryan. Then Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan joined NAMI-NYS in presenting the 2017 Criminal Justice award to Lt. Willie Flack of the Albany Police Department.

Click here to watch a news story from the Capital Region CBS affiliate on the award presentation.

The 2017 Max Gabriel Award was presented to Sean Tuckey. The Zero Suicide panel followed the award presentation.




Saturday began with a session on self-care and wellness strategies led by Paul Margolies, PhD, Associate Director of New York State Psychiatric Institute's Center for Practice Innovations. The session on novel clinical approaches featured Alan Fruzzetti, PhD, Program Director of the 3East Boys Intensive Program and the director of Family Services for 3East Continuum at Harvard Medical School's McLean Hospital.

As is a proud tradition for NAMI-NYS, Saturday morning also featured an update on the work conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Kathleen R Merikangas, Ph.D, Chief of NIMH's Genetic Epidemiology Research Branch, presented on her landmark community-based family study of affective spectrum disorders and their overlap with other mental disorders and medical disorders.

The morning session concluded with the presentation of the NAMI-NYS Excellence in Research Award, presented to Kristen Brennand, PhD, Director of Brennand Laboratory at the Ichahn Medical Institution. Dr. Brennand presented on her work developing in vitro models for schizophrenia in order to identify novel insights into the molecular and cellular phenotypes of mental illness.

The lunch session featured the panel discussion Recovery is Possible which was moderated by John Allen, the New York State Office of Mental Health's Special Advisor to the Commissioner. John detailed how prognoses for recovery have changed since he was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a young man. He also explained how at any given time he can have up to twelve voices talking to him. All panelists have overcome severe and persistent mental illness and provided their insights, stories, struggles, hopes and recovery strategies.

Past NAMI President and current Director for the Office of Consumer Affairs and Center for Mental Health Services at SAMHSA, Keris Jan Myrick, detailed her successes but also the issues she continues to face while living with schizophrenia. These included not being taken seriously by doctors about a physical issue because they saw a psychiatric diagnosis and how when she was hospitalized she did not receive enough support from friends.

Hakeem Rahim, one of NAMI-NYS's leading faces of recovery told his story which has taken him from developing severe delusions caused by bi-polar disorder while at Harvard University to traveling the globe informing students about mental health, testifying before the U.S. Senate and being one of the featured faces of recovery in the New York City Thrive campaign.

Amanda Lipp chronicled her experience of a psychiatric hospitalization her freshman year of college and how creativity, determination and support of friends and family have helped her recovery. Amanda is a filmmaker who is in the process of producing films for the NYS Office of Mental Health's OnTrackNY program. She debuted the film Sebastian which tells the story of a student at Syracuse University who has schizophrenia.

Click here to watch the five minute film.