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McGinley Symposium Calls Attention to Those with Mental Illness

Approximately 25 percent of adults in the United States have a mental illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also describes mental illness as an important public health problem. The Duquesne University School of Nursing will cast light and call attention to mental illness during its 5th annual Rita M. McGinley Symposium on Thursday, Oct. 23, and Friday, Oct. 24, in the Power Center Ballroom on campus.

A scholarly forum in which nurses and other health-related professionals address social justice issues in healthcare, this year's McGinley Symposium will focus on the theme Exploring Social Justice for Vulnerable Populations: The Face of the Person with Mental Illness.

"Although mental illness has been recognized for centuries, it remains a clinical and policy challenge," said event organizer Sister Rosemary Donley, S.C., the Jacques Laval Chair for Justice for Vulnerable Populations. "It affects one in four people in the U.S.; depression is the leading cause of morbidity in the world, causing significant human and fiscal burdens on persons with mental illness, their families and loved ones, and on their communities."

The Face of the Person with Mental Illness will feature four keynote speakers, two panel discussions and a variety of breakout sessions that will address numerous topics such as:

  • social justice and mental illness
  • community-based care of persons with mental illness
  • information processing challenges of autism spectrum disorders
  • action methods to promote trauma healing.

"Mental illness does not respect age, gender, social or economic class, ethnicity or religion," explained Sister Donley. "Persons with mental illness are often homeless, in prison or jail, on the streets or in juvenile justice systems. Mental illness is a taboo topic, and persons with mental illness are often ignored, punished, blamed or feared."

Today-some 50 years after the mental health revolution of the 1960s that deinstitutionalized mentally ill persons-there aren't enough mental health providers or programs to address the needs of those with mental illness, according to Sister Donley.

"This is tragic because there have been amazing scientific breakthroughs in understanding the genesis of mental illness, new and very effective drugs, and more community mental health centers," said Sister Donley. "Yet mental health services are underfunded and fail to reach or support persons and families in need. Recognizing the gaps in mental healthcare, the Affordable Care Act is funding programs that integrate physical and mental health in primary care settings." 
The challenge to educators and healthcare providers, Sister Donley emphasized, is to design new prevention and treatment strategies. "Each of us has a moral responsibility to dispel the myths that imprison the mentally ill," she said.

For more information on the McGinley Symposium, including registration, a profile of speakers, program agenda and continuing education details, visit www.duq.edu/socialjustice or call the nursing school at 412.396.6550.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.