Virtual Ability Presents
the 11th Annual Mental Health Symposium
“I Am Not Alone”
Friday, May 13, 2022
Sojourner Auditorium,
Virtual Ability Island
In Second Life

The 11th annual Mental Health Symposium will take place in Virtual Ability’s Sojourner Auditorium, on Virtual Ability island on Friday, May 13, 2022. There is no charge to attend.

The theme of this Symposium is “I Am Not Alone.” Our distinguished group of presenters will offer a wide interpretation of the theme, based on their interests and academic backgrounds.

The Symposium will take place in the virtual world of Second Life, at the Sojourner Auditorium on Virtual Ability island. The SLURL for the auditorium is: Sojourner Auditorium, Virtual Ability Island. (You can create a free Second Life account through Virtual Ability’s Sign-Up Portal, entering at the beginning of our New Resident Orientation Course. You can then post the auditorium’s SLURL into Nearby Chat, click the green underlined link, and teleport to the auditorium.)

Virtual Ability hosts this annual Symposium to share information about mental health and mental disabilities with the general population. Within our cross-disability community we have members who deal with a variety of mental health issues. Not only is this an opportunity for our community members to learn more about topics related to mental health from experts they probably would not have a chance to meet otherwise, it allows the general public to attend a professional conference at no cost.

Below is the full schedule for the conference.

Mental Health Symposium 2022 Schedule of Events

May 13, 2022. All times are in SLT/PST.
Start TimePresenter NameInstitutionTitle of TalkTranscript of Talk
7:30 amKaren FortunaGeisel School of Medicine, DartmouthBuilding and Sustaining a Digital Mental Health Ecosystem of EquityFortuna Transcript
Presenter Biography:
Karen L. Fortuna, PhD, LICSW, is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Dartmouth College and Co-Founder of the Collaborative Design for Recovery and Health. As an international collaborative of patients, peer support specialists, caregivers, policymakers and payer systems, the Collaborative uses community-based participatory research to facilitate the development, evaluation, and implementation of digital tools that leverage mobile health to address needs identified by community members from vulnerable populations ( Dr. Fortuna is co-Chair of the Patient Engagement National Advisory Council to the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), in which she is currently co-leading a project to update the community engagement standards and integrate these updates to the PCORI Engagement Matrix.
Summary of Talk:
Mobile health (mHealth; i.e., mobile devices, such as mobile phones, patient monitoring devices, personal digital assistants, and other wireless devices) is a promising approach to facilitate monitoring of mental health conditions, offer early diagnosis and support, and provide psychoeducation. Yet, some groups may fail to benefit despite high need for mental health services, including people representing racially or socioeconomically disadvantaged groups, rural residents, and people with disabilities. This seminar will discuss the development of an international community-based participatory research partnership with patients, peer support specialists, caregivers, policymakers and payer systems that incorporates elements of mHealth design, development, and implementation to address inequities and facilitate access and uptake of mHealth across vulnerable populations.
8:30 amCatherine IpsenRTC:RuralUsing the National Survey on Health and Disability to Explore Pandemic Related Changes to Social Isolation and Loneliness.Ipsen Transcript
Presenter Biography:
Dr. Catherine Ipsen is the Director of the Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities (RTC:Rural). Her research interests focus on improving health and employment outcomes of rural people with disabilities. As part of this work, she has explored social isolation and loneliness experiences of people with disabilities, developed health promotion and self-employment interventions
Summary of Talk:
This presentation will open with a description of a publicly available dataset called the National Survey on Health and Disability (NSHD), and findings related to conventional vs MTurk recruitment methods. This will be followed with longitudinal data analysis from the NSHD to explore the experience of social isolation and loneliness among rural and urban people with disabilities before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
9:00 amAlice KruegerVirtual Ability, Inc.Respond to Passages from “The Invisible Kingdom” by Meghan O’RourkeKrueger Transcript
Presenter Biography:
A voracious and eclectic reader, Krueger found this memoire by a woman with chronic illness to be particularly pertinent to the theme of this conference. Krueger is a former education researcher and professional development provider, now sidelined by multiple sclerosis. She founded the Virtual Ability community in Second Life to improve her own quality of life and that of others with various types of disability.
Summary of Talk:
Meghan O’Rourke gives a vivid account of living with strange symptoms, being diagnosed with several chronic illnesses and disabilities, and coming to terms with her life. People with similar experiences feel disbelieved, made to feel it is their fault they are suffering, and willing to do anything to improve their lives.
10:00 amPanel DiscussionWhat About Peer Support?Panel Discussion Transcript
Moderator: Ailgif Resident
Panel Members: Namaara MacMoragh, Shyla the Super Gecko, Anya Ibor, Kelyren Benoir, Dorie Bernstein
Summary of Panel:
Peer support offers information and guidance from people "just like me." This panel is composed of peer support leaders. Panel members will describe their experiences with peer support, in RL and SL.
11:00 amEmre UmucuMichigan State UniversityVeterans in Higher Education: PTSD, Well-Being, College Adjustment, and COVID-19 ImplicationsUmucu Transcript
Presenter Biography:
Dr. Umucu is an Assistant Professor of Office of Rehabilitation and Disability Studies, and his research is focused on modifiable risk and protective factors associated with physical and mental health quality of life, functioning, employment, and psychosocial adjustment in individuals with disabilities and chronic conditions, especially in Veterans with disabilities. His educational background includes rehabilitation counseling psychology, mental health and addiction, and neuropsychology. He has more than 80 publications on psychosocial adjustment, employment and well-being in people with disabilities. He has been active in grants as principal investigator/co-principal investigator/evaluator of foundations, organizations and federal grants (e.g., NIH, DOE, HRSA, RSA).
Summary of Talk:
Veterans in higher education experience challenging transitions, service-connected disabilities, and external stressors. My lab (@WellVeterans) examines modifiable risk (e.g., PTSD) and protective (e.g., flow) factors in rehabilitation, health, and education outcomes in SV with disabilities (SVD). Our findings aim to inform the development of positive psychology interventions to improve college and career success and well-being in SVD.
12:00 pmCharee ThompsonUniversity of Illinois, Urbana-ChampaignWhy is it Difficult to Support Others with Mental Illness? Overcoming a Social Support QuandaryThompson Transcript
Presenter Biography:
Charee M. Thompson is an Associate Professor of Health Communication at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She teaches and researches interpersonal health communication within families and between medical providers and persons living with chronic illness. She focuses on health issues that are associated with uncertainty, stigma, and contestation, namely pain, mental illness, and, recently, long COVID. Her goal is to equip individuals to be more empathic and supportive providers of care to people navigating health issues.
Summary of Talk:
For people living with mental illness, support from others, including family, romantic partners, and friends, is critical but often inadequate. However, research points to a social support quandary for people who provide support: uncertainty about another’s mental illness may engender feelings of fear and anxiety that prompt individuals to provide support, and yet individuals also do not know what to say or do that may be helpful. This talk explains the social support quandary and efforts to develop education to overcome it, towards fostering closeness and resiliency in relationships impacted by mental illness.
1:00 pmLillie GreimanRTC:RuralDisability Data for Advocacy and AwarenessGreiman Transcript
Presenter Biography:
Lillie Greiman works as a Project Director at the Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities (RTC:Rural) and has been with the center since 2012. She works across numerous projects with partners across the country and is passionate about the collaborative work the RTC:Rural does to improve the lives of people with disabilities in rural communities. Her focus areas include: housing, community participation, rural community development, and spatial and demographic analysis.
Summary of Talk:
The ability to access, understand and use data is critical to supporting the public health needs of any community. The Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities (RTC:Rural) at the University of Montana is working to improve data accessible and usability across several projects and with a range of community based partners. In this presentation we will present the data focused tools we have developed to increase access to disability data. We will highlight how these tools have been used by local and national partners and the work we have done to support a larger collaborative network of disabled advocates, researchers and consumers.
1:30 pmGenna MashinchiUniversity of MontanaProject Connect and Iterative Participatory Curriculum DevelopmentMashinchi Transcript
Presenter Biography:
Genna M. Mashinchi, MA, is a doctoral candidate at the University of Montana and graduate research assistant at the Rural Institute Center for Inclusive Communities. Genna’s research focus is to increase the functional independence of individuals and to improve caregiver support. She is working towards becoming a clinical neuropsychologist and hopes to work with an aging population in both her clinical and research work.
Summary of Talk:
This presentation will provide a brief overview of a Participatory Curriculum Development process used to develop peer programming through Centers for Independent Living (CILs). This process will be discussed within the context of Project Connect, which focuses on social isolation, loneliness, and how important online engagement can be. Additionally, we hope to receive input and feedback from conference attendees about the relevance of identified programming topics and subtopics, and any potential gaps.
2:00 pmLorivonne LustreBhangra Dance
Bhangra is an energetic traditional Punjabi folk dance. Come dance with us on the lawn to mark the end of our conference!