Conference Goal to Reduce Stigma of Mental Illness

West Liberty University recently partnered with several local organizations in presenting a two-day mental health conference at The Highlands Center that drew hundreds of participants and featured a timely appearance by internationally known suicide survivor Kevin Hines.

The Shedding Light on Mental Health conference was the idea of several community health groups including the Marshall County Family Resource Network and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in partnership with WLU’s College of Education and Human Performance. The Sisters of St. Joseph Health & Wellness Foundation and the WLU Foundation also supported the new health conference and provided funding.

“Our partnership with these organizations, along with about a year of planning and work, resulted in a successful conference that featured information and speakers like our keynote speaker Kevin Hines, along with continuing education for health professionals, educators and others,” said Dr. Cathy Monteroso, dean of the College of Education and Human Performance.

“The overall goal of the conference was to reduce the stigma of mental illness and encourage people to strive for mental health. Anything we can do to continue to educate the public on the need for taking care of mental health as well as physical health is beneficial.”

Monteroso interviewed Hines on the first day of the conference for her monthly broadcast called the Educational Roundtable, produced by the College of Education and Human Performance and West Liberty University Television (Channel 14). The show’s focus is on current educational issues.

Hines told her about his failed suicide attempt at age 19 and his transformation into a world-renowned mental health advocate, motivational speaker and author who travels the globe spreading a message of hope, recovery and wellness.

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His best-selling memoir is titled “Cracked Not Broken, Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt,” and he recently released a feature-length documentary film called “Suicide: The Ripple Effect.”

The conference, which took place June 7 and 8, occurred just after two celebrities, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, committed suicide, shocking the world.

“The tragedies we saw last week underscore the fact that mental illness knows no boundaries such as age, wealth or success, it affects everyone. We want to encourage everyone to maintain strong support systems if they are suffering from mental illness or contemplating suicide. We want everyone to reach out for help,” Monteroso said. Your thoughts don’t have to become your actions,” he said.

Attending the conference were mental health professionals, along with educators and others in the helping professions.

“We had a good turnout, and we are planning to continue the conference again in the future, probably next year,” she added.

Also involved in the planning and participating in the day’s activities was Kathleen Wack, an assistant professor in the Health and Physical Education Department. Other presenters provided a wide range of educational activities including presentations on eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, psychosis, relaxation techniques, yoga and more.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  If you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, available 24 hours every day. To contact the local NAMI, please visit

To view the entire Kevin Hines interview on West Liberty University Television, click here.