2014 Conference Featured Presentations

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Transforming Stigma into Strength: Drum up your feelings

Mike Veny, Founder, Transforming Stigma & Professional Drummer

Speaker Biography:Mike Veny
Mike Veny is a sought after mental health stigma expert, keynote speaker, and professional drummer. He delivers entertaining, engaging, and educational experiences to conferences and events throughout the world. After suffering from a devastating mental health breakdown in August of 2011, Mike made the decision to use his speaking and drumming skills to serve others. As a person who painfully struggles with mental health challenges every day, he is committed to transforming the stigma surrounding mental health into strength.

Presentation Abstract:
Mike is fiercely committed to the idea that transforming the stigma into strength starts with people taking a look at themselves. His essential message is “Stigma starts with shame. Shame leads to silence. Silence leads to self-destructive behavior and suicide.” Mike Veny will share his story of personal recovery from severe mental illness and how we can transform the stigma of mental illness into opportunities to educate people and build relationships. Mike’s inspiring presentation is surely something you will not want miss!


Cognitive Issues Across the Lifespan

Dr. Silverstein & Dr. Sohnle

Cognitive Challenges in Serious Mental Illness: What Are They and What Can Be Done About Them?

Steven M. Silverstein, Ph.D., Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care

Speaker Biography:
Dr. Steven Silverstein is Director of Research, and Director of the Division of Schizophrenia Research at Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care (UBHC), and Professor of Psychiatry at Rutgers – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. He is the former Chair of the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Serious Mental Illness, and an Executive Board member of the Society for Research in Psychopathology.  Dr. Silverstein received his Ph.D. in Psychology from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1989, and completed his internship and fellowship at Cornell Medical College from 1988-1990.  His research interests are in cognitive and perceptual impairments in schizophrenia, and rehabilitation of these problems.  He has over 150 publications related to schizophrenia, is currently Principal Investigator (PI) on 2 NIMH grants, site PI on two other NIMH grants, Principal Mentor on a junior faculty member’s NIMH grant, and PI on a state-funded project to improve cognition and functioning in children with conduct disorder.  Dr. Silverstein was the 2008 recipient of the United States Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association’s Armin Loeb Award for research in psychiatric rehabilitation, the 2009 recipient of the New Jersey Psychological Association’s Distinguished Researcher Award, and the 2010 recipient of the American Psychological Foundation’s Alexander Gralnick Research Investigator Prize.

Presentation Abstract:
Cognitive difficulties are found in almost all people with schizophrenia and related conditions, and in many people with mood disorders. These problems include those with processing speed, attention, memory, planning, problem solving, learning, and social cognition. In the case of psychotic disorders, many people also have problems related to perception, especially in vision and audition. In some cases, these cognitive and perceptual difficulties are stable over time, whereas in others they improve as symptoms improve, and sometimes they are helped, or made worse, by medication. Research data also indicate that cognitive difficulties are strongly related to a person’s level of functioning. In short, cognitive challenges make life more difficult, and multiple factors need to be considered when determining the best way to treat them, This presentation will review the major forms of cognitive and perceptual difficulties faced by people with a serious mental illnesses, and clarify which are stable over time and which tend to improve with symptom remission. In addition, methods to improve cognitive functioning, and data on their effectiveness will be reviewed. These methods include cognitive remediation, physical exercise, medication, and neuro-feedback. Finally, resources for further personal exploration of the issues will be covered.


What Baby Boomers Need to Know About Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders

Steven J. Sohnle, Psy.D., ABPP, Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care & Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Speaker Biography:
Dr. Steven Sohnle is the Clinician Administrator at COPSA Institute for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders, Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Dr. Sohnle received the Doctor of Psychology degree from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in geropsychology at UMDNJ (Now Rutgers) Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. He runs the COPSA Institute for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders at Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care and has published and presented extensively on issues related to aging and the diagnosis and treatment of disorders that cause dementia.

Presentation Abstract:
Starting with a brief overview of dementia/neurocognitive disorder and its causes, Dr. Sohnle will discuss the cognitive, behavioral and functional changes that various disorders (e.g. Alzheimer’s Disease) can bring about. He will discuss these changes and their implications from both the perspective of the person with the disorder and that of family and other caregivers. Treatment and other care options will be discussed as well as warning signs and symptoms.


Behavioral Intervention Technologies

Michelle Burns, Ph.D
Assistant Professor in the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies (CBITs)
Departments of Preventive Medicine and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Dr. Burns will speak about new and cutting edge research that explores the potential of mobile mental health interventions to provide real-time outreach and feedback to people with mental illness in their unique environments, and overcome barriers to traditional psychotherapy in hidden, under served communities.