Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA) hosted its second annual conference, “Shattering Stigma – Realizing Recovery,” on Saturday, October 26, 2013 at the Houston Marriott Energy Corridor Hotel.
The conference provided friends, families and professionals with knowledge to aid individual’s in recovery and analyzed the challenges faced by professionals, the criminal justice system, and policy makers. Keynote speakers were Dr. Penelope Frese and Dr. Frederick Frese.
Dr. Penelope Frese drew on her experience married to an incredible husband who has schizophrenia, and as a mother of four children with severe mental illness. She spoke about how to help loved ones without enabling—a delicate balancing act she compared to walking on a tightrope. Diego Demaya, J.D. explained how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) helps people with psychiatric disorders, especially in school and work. Charles Steinbach talked about his life with schizophrenia and the moment he decided “to be the best schizophrenic I could be.” His policy of telling everyone he meets that he has schizophrenia is courageous and helps shatter the stigma of mental illness. Jeff Rice, LMFT, LPC inspired us with his story of fighting and beating cancer and his work as a school counselor, family therapist, and consultant to schools serving children with special needs. Larry Ackerman spoke about the thousands of people with mental illness who are housed in jails instead of psychiatric hospitals, living in horrible conditions and not getting the treatment they need. He gave us suggestions about how to help people with mental illness who are in jail. Dr. Marvin Swartz educated us about Psychiatric Advance Directives and how they can help people with mental illness to remain in control of their treatment even when they are too sick to make decisions for themselves, and prevent a court from ordering a guardianship. Catherine Cerulli, J.D., Ph.D., spoke about the research on whether people with mental illness have positive experiences with mandated treatment and how effective it is in improving health, wellness, and independence. Dr. Matcheri Keshavan gave an incredible talk about the current research and treatments for schizophrenia. He gave everyone hope that better treatments will be found and that people with schizophrenia will soon be able to live more functional and happy lives.
Margery Wakefield, MSW told us her inspiring story of recovery: she has been hospitalized for schizophrenia fifty times but was able to complete two college degrees and work as a social worker, author, and caregiver. She says, “Never give up hope for loved ones with mental illness.” SARDAA presented her with the Joanne Verbanic Award for her leadership in Schizophrenics Anonymous.
Following the exceptional conference, a fantastic gala, “Jazz On My Mind,” was enjoyed by many influential community members as well as guests from around the country. We thank our great major corporate sponsors: Concept Searching, EHS Insight, Gimmel, Otsuka American Pharmaceutical, Lundbeck, Advantage BMW Midtown, Enaxis Consulting, Janseen (J & J), The Houston Motor Club, MediaTech Institute, and The Smooth Jazz Cruise.
Guests were totally enthralled by Dr. Frederick Freses’ entertaining keynote address. Dr. Frese is an internationally acclaimed expert and speaker on schizophrenia. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia during the Vietnam War while he was an officer in the Marine Corps. He went on to become an accomplished psychologist, professor, author, and leader in the mental health field. Dr. Frese received SARDAA’s “Shattering Stigma – Realizing Recovery” award for actively engaging in a personal recovery journey with severe mental illness, advocating for and educating the public about mental illness.
John Paul Stevenson, voice of the Houston Rockets, was an incredible emcee. Guests couldn’t resist dancing to the amazing sounds of Tom Braxton. An internationally acclaimed saxophonist, Tom Braxton performs around the world and is a featured performer on the Smooth Jazz Cruise.
This conference and benefit would not have happened without the many volunteer hours donated by some outstanding people. Our “Volunteer of the Year Award” went to Carmen Hedley for her unbelievable work, doing everything from coordinating volunteers, planning the conference, and helping with administrative jobs.
The conference and gala raised thousands of dollars in support of improving lives affected by schizophrenia-related disorders.
Conference and Gala Hosts were SARDAA Founders Mr. & Mrs. Russell Stalters of Houston, TX. SARDAA would not exist without their extraordinary commitment and contributions.