Expert panel will talk about shedding labels, helping others in mental health forum Sept. 26 at UNT
What: Fall Forum on mental health presented by the University of North Texas College of Public Affairs and Community Service
When: 11 a.m. Sept. 26 (Thursday)
Where: UNT Coliseum, 600 Avenue D
DENTON (UNT), Texas — A panel of community experts will talk about erasing the stigma of mental illness at the annual Fall Forum presented by the University of North Texas College of Public Affairs and Community Service.
The free event will take place at 11 a.m. Sept. 26 (Thursday) in the UNT Coliseum, 600 Avenue D. A free lunch will follow.
Panelists will discuss how to get help and how others can get involved and take action, and some panelists will share personal stories. About one in four adults have a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. This year’s Fall Forum coincides with Active Minds Suicide Prevention Month, recognized Sept. 10 through Oct. 7. According to Active Minds, an organization that aims to raise awareness about mental health among students, suicide is the second leading cause of death on college campuses.
Panelists at this year’s Fall Forum are:
- Benaye Y. Rogers, president of CONTACT, a Greater Dallas-based help line, education and support services agency for teens to seniors considering thoughts of suicide and facing daily life challenges
- Amy Stewart, chief program officer at CONTACT
- Julie Hersh, author of Struck by Living: From Depression to Hope
- Vanita Halliburton, president and co-founder of Grant Halliburton Foundation, which is committed to raising awareness and understanding of teen and young adult mental health, preventing suicide and strengthening the network of mental health resources for young people
- Texas State Rep. Garnet Coleman, who received the Eli Lilly Reintegration Award for his efforts to increase services and decrease the stigma associated with mental illness.
- Pamela Gutierrez, executive director of Denton County MHMR
Rogers will act as the panel moderator and will lead the discussion.
“Whether in our professional roles or our personal lives, each of us will be confronted with mental illness on some level,” said Dr. Thomas Evenson, dean of the UNT College of Public Affairs and Community Service. “The PACS Fall Forum is an opportunity to bring an important social issue to light and challenge our students to take action, and no issue is timelier than this.”
Benaye Y. Rogers, president of CONTACT
Rogers began her professional career working as a paralegal and manager at the law firm of Baron and Budd. In 2000, she joined the American Diabetes Association, where she served as an area manager. Rogers began her tenure with CONTACT in March 2004 as the director of development, advancing the organization’s fund development efforts; in 2006, she accepted the role as president of CONTACT. In this role, Rogers serves as the leader and spokesperson for the agency, providing presentations to community organizations and appearing regularly on television and radio to raise awareness of CONTACT and the issue of crisis intervention and prevention needs in the Dallas area. She earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Southwest Texas State University, now Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, and in 2008 completed a Master in Business Administration degree from the University of Dallas.
Amy Stewart, chief program officer at CONTACT
After getting her bachelor’s degree at UNT, Stewart found a passion for helping youth through mental illness and trauma. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with more than 20 years of experience, including time working for MADD and her current position at CONTACT, Stewart has committed her life to helping people through trauma and grief.
Julie Hersh, author of Struck by Living: From Depression to Hope
The recipient of the Mental Health America Ruth Altschuler Community Advocate Prism Award and a blogger for Psychology Today, Julie Hersh is an outspoken advocate for mental health. She serves as a member of the Undergraduate Experience Advisory Council for the University of Notre Dame and the International Society of ECT and Neurostimulation Patient Advisory Council. Her goal is to provide a living example that mental illness is a manageable disease, and she encourages others to develop their own formula for mental health. Hersh is an active board member in the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Theater Center and UT Southwestern Medical Foundation.
Vanita Halliburton, president and co-founder of Grant Halliburton Foundation
After losing her 19-year-old son Grant to suicide due to depression and bi-polar disorder, Vanita Halliburton and Grant’s father, Alan Halliburton, co-founded the Grant Halliburton Foundation. The foundation is committed to raising awareness and understanding of teen and young adult mental health, preventing suicide, and strengthening the network of mental health resources for young people. Today, she serves as the president of the foundation and continues to advocate for mental health and suicide prevention in young people.
Representative Garnet Coleman, Texas House District 147
Garnet F. Coleman has served the people of District 147 in the Texas House of Representatives since 1991. Coleman has earned a reputation as a diligent leader in the areas of health care, economic development and education. He is the senior ranking member of the Public Health Committee as well as the chairman of the County Affairs Committee. On two occasions, Coleman was named to the prestigious Texas Monthly Ten Best Legislators List, and in 2005 he received the Eli Lilly Reintegration Award for his efforts to increase services and decrease the stigma associated with mental illness. He was awarded the Texas Academy of Family Physicians’ 2009 Patient Advocacy Award. Additionally, in 1991 he founded S.M.A.R.T. Kids and serves as president and CEO of Apartments for America Inc. Raised in Houston, Coleman attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., and in 1990 graduated from the University of St. Thomas cum laude with a bachelor of arts. He also completed the prestigious Harvard University Senior Executive Program for State and Local Government.
Pamela Gutierrez, executive director of Denton County MHMR
After getting a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UNT, Gutierrez began working at Denton County MHMR in 1987 as a mental health case manager. Gutierrez has worked in various positions with Denton County MHMR over the past 26 years. While working at the center, Gutierrez went on to obtain her master’s degree from UNT in counseling education. In October of 2013, Gutierrez was appointed executive director of Denton County MHMR by the Board of Trustees. Gutierrez has served on many community groups, including Community-wide Children’s Health Assessment and Planning, Student Health and Advisory Committee and Texas Council Risk Management Council advisory committee.