Annual Conference 2015- "The best one yet"

Attendees at NAMI Wisconsin’s Annual Conference 2015, We’ve Got the Power, have continued to report that this year’s conference was the best one yet. The conference was held April 24-25 at the Madison Marriott West and the theme focused on wellness and its connection to mental health. The event had almost as many attendees as last year, bringing in about 375 mental health consumers, family members, providers and clinicians, with 2 keynote addresses and 37 breakout sessions, 8 of which were interactive wellness sessions. These interactive wellness sessions proved to be a hit among participants, as they were able to learn about and partake in wellness techniques that they can do as part of their daily routines.

“We felt it was important to provide conference attendees with not only a wealth of information, but also hands-on experience and interactivity, skills that they can go home with and use in their everyday lives,” said Colleen Rooney, NAMI Wisconsin Public Relations and Events Coordinator. “This has been key in how we shape mental illness so that others can view it in a more recovery-based and positive model.”

On Friday the conference kicked off with a keynote address from Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D., on Order and Disorder in the Emotional Brain. Dr. Davidson also stuck around afterwards to sign copies of his book, The Emotional Life of your Brain. After taking in a ton of great information, attendees had the opportunity to attend interactive wellness sessions, including Energy Medicine, Eating for Improved Mood and Mental Health, Finding Balance in Life's Ups and Downs, Therapeutic Massage and Mindfulness & Meditation. Later in the evening, local musician and veteran Jason Moon turned it up a notch with a live musical performance. He designed this performance in order to find healing from the rigors of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and to bring light to the poorly handled transition for soldiers returning from war.

I’ve been to four NAMI Wisconsin conferences- this is BY FAR the best conference! Thank you for the recovery and wellness-based resources.
— Conference attendee

Day 2 of the conference began with a special keynote address from Daniel B. Fisher, MD, Ph.D., about Dialogical Recovery. It was evident that Dr. Fisher’s keynote address was well-received. By the time he was done, there was so much enthusiasm and questions from the audience that he could hardly get through the people to make it to the next room! Another extraordinary part of Saturday was the Student Leadership Track. This is the second year that NAMI Wisconsin has offered a track for students and young adults, and we have improved it tremendously. 25 students engaged in an experiential art therapy session, creating artwork as a team and exploring feelings of connection and belonging. Participants also learned about stress management and mindfulness, and participated in an emotional yet relieving peer support group led by NAMI UW-Madison students. 

One highlight of the Annual Conference every year is the honoring of individuals who exemplify the NAMI mission. The NAMI Wisconsin Board of Directors presents Iris Awards to those who stand out in their efforts, contributions and dedication to improve the quality of life of people affected by mental illness. On Friday, the CIT Officer of the Year Award was presented to the Milwaukee Police Department’s Lieutenant Karen Dubis; the Government Service Award was given to Cathy A. Jess and Ed Wall of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections; and the Jim Maddox Peer of the Year Award was presented to Tyrel Rouse. On Saturday, Brenda Wesley of NAMI Greater Milwaukee received the Special Recognition Award; the Outstanding Contribution to NAMI Wisconsin Award went to Denise Hackel of NAMI St. Croix Valley; and the newest award which recognizes outstanding attention to mental health needs of underserved communities, the Build it Together Award, was presented to Alpha Kappa Alpha – Kappa Psi Omega Chapter. 

For more photos and workshop presentations and handouts, go to