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April 13-15, 2023 in Kansas City, MO


The Eye of the Survivor: Why Storytelling Matters in Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Promotion

Thursday, April 13 at 6pm, Shawnee Ballroom
Sally Spencer-Thomas, Psy.D.

Spencer-ThomasAt the heart of any community change effort are the stories. We lack stories that stir fire in the belly and fuel our action to make changes. The basic narrative is this: “This is me. This is how my life and others like me have been systematically destroyed. This is how I see change is possible.”

Yes, the story needs to take us into the crisis, we need to understand the depths of pain in suicide grief, despair and the challenges experienced through discrimination, but the majority of the story is about the overcoming of it. We are hardwired for storytelling - stories move our hearts and build community. As part of a suicide prevention and mental health promotion strategy they let others know they are not alone and collectively, they can tell a powerful tale of hope, recovery and change.

Learn more about Sally Spencer-Thomas, Psy.D. Expand +

“Dr. Sally” is a clinical psychologist and award-winning mental health advocate with her own personal experience of losing her beloved brother to suicide. Her mission of giving voice to people who’ve lived through suicide thoughts, attempts, and loss and to help those in despair rekindle a passion for living.

In addition to helping leaders and communities implement innovative approaches to suicide prevention, Sally is the lead author on the National Guidelines for Workplace Suicide Prevention, President of United Suicide Survivors International, and co-founder of “Man Therapy” (www.ManTherapy.org). She also co-edits the Guts, Grit & the Grind book series that provides men and the people who love them with tools to help them better understand and cope with life’s challenges.

Sally has a TEDx talk and gave an invited address at the White House in 2016. Her impressive list of partners includes the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the FBI, Chubb Insurance, and Southwest Airlines. She has also spoken and consulted internationally including Australia, Ireland, Singapore, Taiwan, Denmark and Belgium.

How do you Script Consent Culture?

Friday, April 14 from 8:15am-9:15am, Shawnee Ballroom
Olivia Harris and Oronde Cruger, Speak About It

HarrisCrugerSpeak About It (SAI) has worked with over 120 colleges and universities in 28 states, including Missouri. Speak About It offers students tools to communicate clearly and effectively with partners and intervene in potentially unsafe situations to keep their community safe. In the last decade we have learned about the intersections of rape culture, alcohol, mental health, and consent. Oronde Cruger, SAI’s Program Director, and Olivia Harris, SAI’s Executive Director, will offer a Keynote to address what makes good communication, factors that impact effective communication, and the value of social scripting as an education and prevention tool. Our new and improved keynote will illustrate how social scripting helps young people prepare for more pleasurable and respectful encounters.

SAI will also bring 2 Actor-Educators to Missouri, so that we can show live scenes from our Flagship show. Speak About It uses social scripting, a tool developed for people on the Autism Spectrum, to help students discover and communicate their boundaries, check in with their partners, intervene in potentially unsafe situations, and hold one another accountable. Social scripting is a form of action planning that helps young people figure out what they could say when navigating consent with a partner, intervening in a potentially unsafe situation, and when they are uncertain about the impact of alcohol and other drugs in a sexual context.

Bringing 2 performers to Meeting of the Minds will allow Speak About It to showcase our work live for the audience, and can offer some useful perspective from our near-peer Actor-Educators. This also will help all audience members understand the live impacts of our flagship programming and identify ways to use the skills we discuss in their own work.

Speak About It teaches that consent is a community value, and must be pervasive throughout a campus culture. All stakeholders need to speak about the challenges on college campuses and learn how to listen to others. Healthy, assertive communication skills impact our workplaces, friendships, and family relationships: all of our interactions will become more pleasurable.

Learn more about Olivia Harris and Oronde Cruger, Speak About It Expand +

Olivia Harris is an applied theater artist, educator, and feminist who has been using interactive theatrical tools to create conversations about consent, boundaries, and healthy relationships for almost a decade. She has worked as a theater educator across the globe, running programs in Afghanistan, Guatemala, and Nepal and managing programs in Haiti, India, and Myanmar. Olivie has also worked recently with the Harlem Children's Zone, Drew University, and Philadelphia Theatre Company. While at Drew, Olivia designed curriculum that trained students to use applied theater techniques to combat sexual violence on their campus. Likewise, students under her mentorship at the Philadelphia Theatre Company, led healthy relationship workshops throughout the city. Photo by Dave Dostie.

Oronde Cruger worked as a Speak About It educator for years before being promoted to Program Coordinator, then Program Manager. Oronde graduated with a degree in neuroscience from Bowdoin College where he studied learning and memory along with hormones and behavior. His background mixed with his deep love for facilitating difficult discussions has served him well working with young folks trying to better understand the complexities of intimacy. His experiences helped to inform his 2018 TEDx talk about redefining masculinity and the importance of vulnerability in the process. He has found a home in Portland, Maine and is the proud co-founder of Heart of Hospitality, a coalition of violence prevention groups and service industry professionals dedicated to improving the safety of venues across the state. Photo by Michael Harris.

Surviving Generational Trauma

Saturday, April 15 from 8:15am-9:15am, Shawnee Ballroom
Greg Holtmeyer, M. Ed.

HoltmeyerThis session will discuss how trauma can be passed down multiple generations by causing damage to the RNA which affects DNA. Depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are common effects. We will discuss the studies, common effects, and treatment. This combines the ""nature and nurture"" aspects. It is not one or the other, but both in many cases."

Learn more about Greg Holtmeyer, M. Ed. Expand +

With over thirty years of educational experience, Greg Holtmeyer, M. Ed.is a leading speaker, trainer, educator, advocate and survivor of child sexual abuse (CSA). He is passionate about creating awareness concerning the devastating effects of CSA of males. He provides powerful healing testimony and professional trainings. His workshops has included professionals from the fields of education, law enforcement, child abuse prevention, community organizations, and medical counseling. His trainings assist service providers to better understand and support the needs of male sexual abuse survivors. As a leader he is breaking social norms of masculinity stereotypes. He inspires a new kind of view pertaining to masculinity that empowers men to experience healthy emotions. Greg also offers hope, support, and inspiration for those who are on their healing journey so they can RISE ABOVE their trauma from CSA and reclaim their lives. Greg is a member of the Missouri Children's Justice Act Governor Task Force, Executive Director of the Show Me a Helping Hand Child Abuse Conference, Executive Director of The Phoenix Project, and the Access and Abilities Coordinator at Lincoln University.