Discovering more on mental health

By Sharon Skaggs, Wesley Nurse, Austin

Last February, my fellow Wesley Nurse, Eileen Stedl-Walter, and I had the opportunity to host an exhibit table at the 17th annual Central Texas African American Family Support Conference held in Austin, Texas. The table was shared with one of Methodist Healthcare Ministries' funded partners, Planned Living Assistance Network of Central Texas (PLANCTX). The conference was provided by Austin Travis County Integral Care (ATCIC) along with community sponsors from both public and private sectors. More than 400 people attended the event and had access to 30 interactive workshops about mental health, developmental and intellectual disabilities, chemical dependency and co-occurring disorders.

In November 2000, according to the ATCIC, integral care took its first step towards addressing myths about mental illnesses and health disparities by hosting the inaugural conference with culturally relevant information for African Americans. The conference's ongoing mission has been to strengthen family and individual awareness of available health care services, both behavioral and physical, through culturally sensitive education, support, and partnerships. The conference targets the African American community but embraces all members of the community regardless of race. In addressing these vital issues over the years, the conference has also sought to reduce stigma about mental illness in the African-American community. One speaker, Tamu Lewis, summed it all up when she stated: "there is no health without mental health."

The event had an inspiration wall which asked the questions: Why are you here? Why is the conference important? What will you take away? The wall was completely covered with thoughtful answers from the attendees.

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 The conference was an excellent opportunity to increase our awareness of issues facing our community, gain knowledge about wellness, recovery and professional development, learn about area resources, and network with our peers. We were happy to represent Methodist Healthcare Ministries at the conference.

Methodist Healthcare Ministries' Wesley Nurse program is a faith-based, holistic health and wellness program committed to serving the least-served through education, health promotion and collaboration with individuals and communities to achieve improved wellness through self-empowerment. Learn more at