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Mental Illness:  Our Community’s Journey to Understanding, Compassion and Hope

Social Services Panel Discussion, Convention 2014, Philadelphia, PA

Moderator:  Paulette Geanacopoulos, LMSW, Director of the National Philoptochos Department of Social Work will open the presentation with a framework for the program - why this topic and why now; stigma of mental illness in our community.  She will introduce the panelists, and field questions at the end.  

PANELIST # 1: UNDERSTANDING MENTAL ILLNESS:

Confirmed Panelist:  Demetria DeLia, Ph.D., LCSW, M.A.

The panelist is a clinician who will provide an overview of mental illness including its prevalence in the United States and our community, with a focus on major depression, paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar and borderline personality disorders; violence (e.g. school shootings, suicide/suicidal ideation among young adults); fertility issues/post-partum depression; and the interrelationship between mental illness and substance abuse – drugs to self-medicate; drugs bringing on psychotic episodes. She will discuss some of the legal and ethical issues regarding mental health services in relation to treatment options, and will close with a statement that mental illness is not solely experienced by the patient, but also by his / her family – and thus .  .  . 

Panelist Bio:

Dr. Demetria DeLia is a Certified Psychoanalyst and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is in Private Practice in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, is a Supervisor at Family Services of Morristown, N.J., and a member of the Academy of Clinical and Applied Psychoanalysis.  She has published several articles and has lectured extensively on family mental health issues. Dr. DeLia was the Dean of Curriculum at the NJ Center for Modern Psychoanalysis, and served on the faculty and as supervising analyst at the Centenary College, MA, Psychoanalytic Counseling Program.   She holds a Ph.D. from New York University, has taken Post-Doctoral Courses in Trauma at Harvard University Medical School, and holds an M.S.W. from Rutgers University.  

PANELIST # 2: IMPACT OF MENTAL ILLNESS ON THE FAMILY

Confirmed Panelist:  Christina Kallas, Esq.

The second panelist will discuss the impact of mental illness on family members, including feelings of overwhelming responsibility, frustration, anger, hurt, stress, chaotic family life, exhaustion, loyalty and loneliness.  Ms. Kallas will discuss how some family members become enablers, others blame themselves or their spouse for the mental illness and yet others focus only on the diagnosed relative while ignoring other family members.  Using personal experiences, she will discuss the importance and role of family support groups - as a safe place to reveal and speak about their feelings, as a means to obtaining accurate information and education about their relative’s condition, as a place to talk to and learn from others experiencing similar issues, and as a guide to assessing and obtaining appropriate resources.  This panelist will close with a statement that family members can find hope when they focus on the person rather than the illness– and thus . . .     

Panelist Bio:

Christina Kallas, Esq. has a private practice as a mediator and lawyer.  She is a former President of the New York Women’s Bar Association, a current member of its Advisory Council, and serves on the Board of its Foundation.  Since 1994, Ms. Kallas has focused her law practice on Alternative Dispute Resolution.  She is a mediator for the Community Dispute Resolution Center of Safe Horizons (now the Peace Institute) mediating disputes involving matters of the community, juveniles, child custody, visitation and mental illness.  Motivated by their personal experience, for the past decade and following intensive training for non-mental health professionals, Ms. Kallas and her husband, Xenophon Theophall, have been facilitators for the Family Connections Program of the National Educational Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (NEA BPD), a 12-week program for relatives of people suffering from BPD to help caregivers take better care of themselves and reduce overall family stress.  In 2013, she and her husband were recruited by the Archdiocese to be facilitators of “The Journey of Marriage”, a workshop designed for couples planning to marry in the Orthodox Church.  She is a frequent lecturer and motivational speaker at venues as varied as public middle schools, the Congress of Racial Equality, and her parish, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in New York City.  

PANELIST # 3: SUPPORTING THE JOURNEY THROUGH FAITH & HOPE:

Confirmed Panelist:  Rev. Protopresbyter Nicholas G. Anctil

Rev. Protopresbyter Nicholas G. Anctil will point out that the Church environment can be a source of hope when we approach those affected with understanding, love and compassion.  He will reference Orthodox teachings and cultural interpretations to inform his presentation including our belief that humans are in a “state of brokenness”, dispelling the myth that mental illness has roots in demonic possession.  He will promote the Church as a natural support network and recommend that clergymen, Philoptochos members and parishioners partner  with  therapists and support groups to ensure that their services are conducted with sensitivity to the characteristics unique to our community, including our perspectives of religion, faith and spirituality.  In response to some of the specific issues raised by the previous two panelists, he will recommend that outreach and educational programs be co-sponsored jointly by Philoptochos, GOYA and other church organizations to help parishioners properly understand, identify and respond appropriately to such concerns.   He will end his presentation by reading a section of select prayers for spiritual healing. 

Panelist Bio:

Rev. Protopresbyter Nicholas G. Anctil is the Proistamenos at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in New Rochelle, N.Y.  He serves as President of the Archdiocesan Presbyters Council and is one of the Chairs of the APC/NSP Benevolence Committee.  Born in Nashua, NH, Rev. Anctil is a 1980 graduate of Hellenic College and a 1984 graduate of Holy Cross School of Theology.  Ordained to the priesthood in 1984 by His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios, he served at St. Demetrios Cathedral in Astoria, NY from 1984 to 1989 and Holy Trinity - St. Nicholas Church in Staten Island, NY from 1989 to 1996 prior to his assignment in 1996 to New Rochelle.  

CONCLUSION / Q&A  

Prior to the presentations, audience members will have been given index cards on which to write questions.  With assistance from Metropolis Philoptochos Philanthropy Chairs, we will collect and select those questions to be asked that are most relevant to the audience as a whole.  The audience members will be told that following the convention, all questions will be answered, with the responses posted on the social services section of the Philoptochos website.