Caminar’s 3rd Annual Mental Health Symposium

By Angelica R. Chisolm

In observance of Mental Health Awareness Month, Caminar once again showcased innovations in prevention and treatment that are improving the lives of people living with mental health conditions. Held on May 18 at the elegant Filoli estate, the 3rd Annual Mental Health Symposium encouraged members of the community to get involved in breaking down stigma and in promoting the recovery process.

For the first part of the evening, guests were treated to self-guided tours of the estate and gardens and offered refreshments and hors d'oeuvres. CEO Charles “Chip” Huggins began the evening’s program by welcoming the more than 200 advocates, friends, volunteers, and members of different agencies in attendance. After thanking the event underwriters and planning committee members, Mr. Huggins shared a few updates on Caminar’s programs, such as the launch of the Assisted Outpatient Treatment program (which seeks to engage adults in treatment who have serious mental health conditions and who are disconnected from supportive services) and the recent merger with Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley. He introduced the moderator and first speaker, Steven Adelsheim, M.D., of Stanford University.

Dr. Adelsheim spoke about adolescent mental health and early intervention programs for depression, anxiety, and prodromal symptoms of psychosis. He shared findings of the Stanford Center for Youth Health and Wellbeing’s community focus groups and of the CDC’s Epi-Aid study on youth suicides, including statistics by age, comparisons of risk factors and protective factors, and preventive activities, programs, and policies.  Dr. Adelsheim also spoke about 13 Reasons Why, the young adult novel (adapted as a series by Netflix) that has been sparking conversations at schools, in homes, and among professionals. Ultimately, he encouraged everyone to educate themselves about risk factors and resources because each person has the power to make a difference.

Dr. Adelsheim has moderated Caminar’s Annual Mental Health Symposium for each of the last three years. In recognition of his service, Mr. Huggins presented Dr. Adelsheim with a certificate of appreciation.

Speaker Ben McGraw spoke about the bStable Pilot Study that is currently being conducted at Caminar. The bStable system is designed to optimize patient and health provider communication in order to improve mental health outcomes. Use of the product allows patients and providers to proactively monitor mental health symptoms to aid in preventing crisis situations. The system also provides easy access to patient information and issues, allowing professionals to process solutions more quickly.  

Rebecca Bernert, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Director of the Suicide Prevention Research Laboratory at the Stanford Mood Disorders Center. Her research focuses on the development of novel therapeutic strategies for suicide prevention, with the aims of overcoming stigma and enhancing access to care through a low-risk intervention approach.

Easy access to help was the subject next discussed by Libby Craig, Director, Bay Area, of Crisis Text Line. She introduced the national nonprofit offering free 24/7 crisis assistance via text message for people of all ages who are in crisis. By texting 741741, an algorithm reviews each text initially for severity and imminent risk and matches the individual with a trained Crisis Counselor, who will provide empathy and hope. Supervisors, who all have master’s degrees or PhDs in psychology or social work, oversee the Crisis Counselors. More than 37 million text messages have been exchanged nationwide using Crisis Text Line since August 2013. Local colleges and schools have been promoting the free service through posters, stickers, and other tools.  A student poster design contest was initiated and spotted around the Bay Area as well. Ms. Craig invited those who are interested to train as volunteers and encouraged everyone to help spread the word about this free resource.

Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., of Stanford University School of Medicine’s Comprehensive Eating Disorders Program, next elucidated the audience on the relationship between eating disorders and suicide risk. Dr. Fitzpatrick specializes in neuropsychological assessment and evaluation treatments of eating disorders for children and adolescents. Her current research focuses on the development of Cognitive Remediation Therapy (CRT) to address cognitive behavioral difficulties associated with eating disorders. She explained how feeding disorders can start in childhood and various forms of manifestation, including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. Treatments include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Family Based Therapy. Effective treatment entails a lot of family intervention and strong support systems.

Last but certainly not the least was Eric Kuhn, Ph.D., a Clinical Research Psychologist from the VA National Center for PTSD and a Clinical Assistant Professor at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Kuhn explained the different kinds of trauma and what happens during and as a result of trauma. He discussed about the use of technology to help manage post traumatic stress disorder (TSD), he also described a free app (PTSD Coach) proven to be a useful tool for veterans in crisis.  Dr. Kuhn further spoke about the relation of trauma to suicide and effective PTSD Therapies available.

It was another educational experience, capped with a question and answer session from the audience. Guest Sheryl Sundheim, M.A., a community college faculty member, said she gained a lot of information to share with her students.

Caminar extends its appreciation to this year’s sponsors, who made possible this educational evening: El Camino Hospital, Sutter Health Mills-Peninsula Medical Center, the Bohannon Foundation, Caltrain, Kaiser Permanente, Peninsula Health Care District, Sequoia Healthcare District, and Stanford Health Care.

View the presenters’ slides and photos from the evening here.