WSCC organizes mental health awareness series

November 4, 2014

VICTORY TWP.  – West Shore Community College is hosting Mental Health Awareness activities happening on the campus Nov. 10-18. The public is invited to attend.

Co-sponsored by the college’s Academic Projects team and Phi Theta Kappa honor society, the activities are designed to further the conversations begun by author Steve Luxenberg when he visited the campus recently as part of the Great Michigan Read.

“Steve clearly touched a nerve while he was here, calling attention to need for public discussion and information about mental health in our families and communities,” said Seán Henne, WSCC Professor of English and Education, who chairs the college’s Academic Projects team.

On Mon., Nov. 10, the two-week event will kick off with a panel discussion at 12:30 p.m. in the Center Stage Theater.  The panelists, Rafael Diaz, Chris Eldredge, and Sue Warmuskerken, will each focus attention on issues relevant to mental health concerns in their respective vocations.

Diaz is a public safety sergeant and practicing attorney based in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  As a crisis intervention trained officer, and one who trains others in CIT, he’s well acquainted with the unique challenges mental illness poses for both police and those experiencing a crisis.

Eldredge is the team leader for Service Entry and Emergency Services at West Michigan Community Mental Health. He has been in practice in west Michigan for over 20 years, serving persons with a wide range of mental illnesses and developmental disabilities in both inpatient and outpatient settings.

Sue Warmuskerken is an experienced nurse and WSCC professor.  She has 12 years of experience as an instructor in out-patient and in-patient mental health, and has considerable expertise as well in ICU, ER, OB, and pediatrics.

“Exercise is a great stress reliever,” says Julie Smith, Director of the WSCC Wellness Center.  As students prepare for the hard work of the final weeks of the semester, Smith will lead a “Walk for Wellness” on Wed., Nov. 12, at 2 p.m.

Rain or shine, walkers will meet Smith at the Labyrinth Disc Golf Course informational booth located at east end of the upper Recreation Center parking lot.  Smith will traverse the 3.1 mile walk on the college’s scenic cross country trail/disc golf course, but walkers are encouraged to come and cover any amount of that distance.  As Smith explains, “Any form of exercise can help boost your body’s feel good hormones and distract you from daily worries.”

The keynote lecture of the Mental Health Awareness series will be delivered by WSCC’s own Dr. Geoff Kramer, Professor of Psychology.  Kramer has been a full-time professor at the college since 2005.  Prior to that he taught at Indiana University and Grand Valley State University, and had eight years of experience as a prison psychologist.

Kramer’s lecture on the history of treatments for mental illness will take place Thurs., Nov. 13, at 12:30 p.m., in the Center Stage Theater.

Because treatments are invariably linked to assumptions about the causes of mental illness, Kramer will look at how our assumptions about mental illness have changed over time, focusing on the specific changes that have affected many families even through today.

Finally, to conclude the series, Professor John Wolff will conduct a presentation entitled “Meditation and Mental Health: What the Science Tells Us” at 11 a.m. on Tues., Nov. 18, in the Center Stage Theater.

Wolff teaches English courses and an experimental course in intrapersonal communications called Mindful Living (HUM108).  His book, “The Driftwood Shrine: Discovering Zen in American Poetry,” will be published by Sumeru Books (Toronto) in 2015.

Wolff’s presentation will begin with a review of recent research on the correlation of various health benefits and regular meditation practice.  The presentation will also include a brief exercise in meditation technique conducted by Professor Wolff and his students.

The college encourages the public to attend any or all of these events and join in a week of learning and reflection about mental health concerns in families and across the community.

For more information, contact Henne at 231-843-5859 or

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