Social Work dept. partners with UPMC for virtual conference

Samantha Weber, Staff writer

he Applied Sociology and Social Work Department partnered with UPMC Western Behavioral Health at Safe Harbor to offer the Suicide Prevention Advisory Board’s 2021 Virtual Conference Series. The conference occurred from March 15-19.

This partnership began through the efforts of an adjunct social work professor, Mandy Fauble, Ph.D., who also works as the Clinical Director at UPMC Hamot Safe Behavioral Health. Fauble has worked in the Mercyhurst University Social Work Program for over a decade. She loves her students here and wants to help them succeed, and thus has created opportunities like this to foster interactive and collaborative learning.

Because of her other occupation, Mercyhurst was able to partner with the UPMC Hamot Suicide Prevention Advisory Board in order for this to conference to take place and be accessible to the Mercyhurst community.

The Board plans and implements a suicide prevention conference annually. Due to COVID-19, the only option was to move everything online.

According to the Department Chair of the Applied Sociology and Social Work department, Laura Lewis, Ph.D., the decision was made to spread the virtual series across multiple days to raise awareness and allow for more opportunities for people to attend if they were not able to make just one day.

Everyday of the week included two webinar events. One was always in the morning and one was in the afternoon in hope that someone could fit one of them into their schedule, if not both.

On March 15, Clark Flatt talked about The Jason Foundation’s Youth Suicide Prevention. In the afternoon, Dr. Lisa May presented on “Supporting Older Adults Through the Pandemic.”

On the morning of March 16, Cory Watkins talked about “Suicide Prevention for Student Athletes: Training for Coaches and Athletic Personnel.” In the afternoon, Corissa Claar presented on “Substance Use During Adolescence: The Impact on Mental Health and Suicidality.”

The next morning, on March 17, Mary Anne Albaugh, Ph.D., Wendy Jacobs and Josh Karr talked about “Mental Health Procedures Act and the Age of Consent.”

In the afternoon, Conor Dawley and Patrick McKelvey talked about “The Telling is Hard: Supporting Ourselves and Children While Grieving a Death by Suicide.”

On the morning of March 18, Cassie Dundon and Steve Minick presented “Raising Resilience Through Intentional Self-Care.”

In the afternoon, Cory Watkins again talked about The Jason Foundation’s Youth Suicide Prevention, but also included a presentation on “First Responder Suicide Prevention.”

On one of the final days of the conference series, March 19, Patty Stubber and Ashok Gurung’s talk presented “Mental Health of Refugees: A Focus on our Bhutanese Community.” In the afternoon, Everett Painter and Susan Higgins Packard’s talk presented “Bereavement Following Suicide: Helping Those Left Behind.”

To conclude the week, on Saturday, March 20, there was a film presentation of “Scattering CJ,” followed by a panel discussion. “Scattering CJ” is a film that follows the efforts of CJ’s grieving mother, Hallie, who lost her son to suicide, to continue with her life. To preserve his memory and honor his love of travel, Hallie scatters his ashes throughout the world while also speaking to others about suicide prevention.

“The film highlights how impactful suicide is, not only on the individual, but all those in the individuals life,” said junior social work major, Mary Bauer. “As a community with a student population, the film offers a sense of community for all those who view it.”

Bauer has been crucial to the execution of this series and describes the topics to be very important for a college community.

“College students are a high-risk population for dying by suicide, which makes suicide education and prevention so important,” Bauer said. Those who attended praised how organized the series was and how wonderful the students involved have been throughout.