Lecture this Thursday

Published 7:44 pm Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The 14th annual Helen Keller lecture will feature Joel Slack, the president of Slack Consulting, and an international consultant and trainer in the field of mental health.

The lecture will be held at 10 a.m. on Thursday in the Claudia Crosby Theater at Troy University and is free to the general public and to Troy University students.

During college, Slack suffered a mental breakdown and was institutionalized for two years.

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“I was a college basketball player when I became ill with clinical depression. It brought me to my knees for over eight years,” Slack said. “I have been able to recover, and I live a fulfilling and productive life as the president of a thriving company and I have a beautiful family. The stigma with mental illness lingers even after recovery, but my job is to help facilitate a greater respect afforded with mental illness.”

Slack has long been an advocate for respect in the mental health care industry and said he has different perspective of the mental health care industry than most people.

“What makes my story so unique is that it comes from being a patient and an outpatient of the mental health care system for several years,” Slack said. “I have also worked as a professional caregiver and I’ve been a part of the senior management of the mental health care system. I can pull all of these perspectives together to give a unique view point.”

Slack founded Respect International and Slack Consulting. Both organizations work hand-in-hand in order to provide consultation and training services to psychiatric organizations worldwide.

“I have presented my ‘Respect’ seminar to 275,000 people worldwide, and to 42 countries. On Thursday I will be focusing on how respect can help to activate the resilience within a human being suffering from a mental illness,” Slack said. “

Slack said he was shown respect by Emmett Poundstone, the former commissioner of mental health in Alabama.

“Back in 1990, Emmett did something that no one else had done. He hired someone who had been in the mental health care system as a patient to stand at the helm of the Office of Consumer Relations,” Slack said. “He had a vision that included making sure that the management got feedback from their customers, those that had been most affected by the mental health care system, so he hired me.”

Slack said former patients should have the opportunity to be employed in everything from management to care giving positions, or in any job field they desire to be hired in.

“Just like other policies opened up the gates for African Americans and women to be hired without discrimination, my goal is to generate respect for those dealing with mental illnesses,” Slack said. “There should be no discrimination.”

Candice Howard-Shaughnessy, the chair of the kinesiology and health promotion department at Troy, said it is very important for Slack to speak on mental illness.

“Mental illness is not often discussed in depth, and this is the first time that mental health has been discussed at the lecture. Mental illness is becoming more prevalent in today’s society,” Shaughnessy said. “The American College Health Association recently reported that 60 percent of college students reported feeling things were hopeless one or more times, while 10 percent of students reported seriously considering attempting suicide at least one time. It’s a very important issue.”