Seminar Embraces Hope In Mental Health Recovery

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"People like me get better," Nanette Larson said, kicking off "Embracing Hope," a seminar targeting mental health and addiction recovery Saturday morning and afternoon, Feb. 3, at Calvary Baptist Church in Hillsboro.

Larson, deputy director/ambassador for wellness and recovery for the Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Mental Health, was the morning keynote speaker and AJ French, president and chief executive officer at Gift of Voice in Alton, was the afternoon keynote speaker.

Using a definition of "recovery" developed by the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health in 2003, Larson said that often "the system doesn't know the people in it can get better."

That definition? "Recovery is the process by which people are able to live, work, learn and participate fully in their communities.  

For some individuals, recovery is the ability to live a fulfilling and productive life despite a disability.  For others, recovery implies the reduction or remission of symptoms.  Science has shown that having hope plays an integral role in an individual's recovery."  

Larson emphasized "participate fully in their communities" and "hope," linking recovery principles to those found in faith.

Pastor Randy Sands of Hillsboro Free Methodist Church was master of ceremonies, and before introducing Larson, introduced Trenda Hedges and "Warm Line Team" members who were available throughout the seminar for one-on-one conversations.

In addition to Larson and French, those at the seminar heard from Brent Miller, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1998 and in recovery since 2001.  Pastor Jeff Hemken of Calvary Baptist Church in Hillsboro sang two songs he had written for the event and played a video from his daughter, Beth Hemken, on substance use disorder recovery.  Marcia Liebscher, who teaches groups and individuals at Graham Correctional Center, described factors contributing to wellness, and prison counselor Lori Bergbower talked about prevention.

Pastor Hemken gave his perspective as a caregiver before three panel breakout sessions, and Linda Liebscher closed with a discussion about recovery moving forward.

Lunch was provided by volunteers from Calvary Baptist, Hillsboro Free Methodist, and Hillsboro United Methodist.

Pastor Sands thanked those who organized, spoke, and provided resource tables at the seminar, including Calvary Baptist Church for their hospitality and Linda Liebscher, who "has done the lion's share of work" in preparation for the event.

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