Mental Health, Mental Illness, on Block Island

advocating for services and support for those who are ill and education for mental health to all on Block Island

2018 Spring Conference – Report

Mental Health Month May 2018

NAMI Block Island Spring Conference

 The was held on Friday 18 / Saturday 19 May 2018 free to all residents and visitors of Block Island, to attend all or some of the sessions as they choose. [program here]


A Community Conversation, what do we know? what can we do?

There was good attendance 25 – 30 people from Block Island residents and visitors at each of the events, and better than attendance, genuine interactive discussions. Thanks you everyone who came and brought yourself and your experience to share. It feels like we really have begun to kick that stigma silence thing, and open up with respect for each other, listening and contributing.

Friday evening at The Harbor Church – a showing of “Every Brilliant Thing” DVD of Joe Donohue in this one-person play adaptation by Duncan MacMillan. Lively and personal discussion followed, thank you Ed McGuirl for managing the group, and after that, for the songs. [A copy of the DVD can be borrowed from the Island Free Library]

Saturday events held at the Island Free Library were to begin with showing of a TED talk by Andrew Solomon as an introduction and overview, then we were to have a speaker on Suicide. The speaker phoned after 9am to say she had missed the boat. OOPs, No Speaker for the 11-12 slot.

Elspeth Crawford (declaration: that’s me, writer of this report) was to introduce the TED talk after breakfast, after 10am when those who did make the boat arrived, so having been listening to what seems like hundreds of good ways to reduce anxiety and stress, these notions were followed. Deep Breath. Calm. Adapt. Etc. Elspeth, who always has too much material prepared anyway [slides here] extended the time for discussion following the TED talk and linked it with the previous evenings thoughts from Every Brilliant Thing. The audience responded. What a great response! We all learned from the talk and the conversation. I am very grateful to you. We broke just before 12 for lunch.

The afternoon began with Kevin Lyn Sisson* speaking about Depression in Seniors, facing aging and the inevitable losses. As well as offering know-how about prevention and mitigation, she told us some of the statistics that show how essential the topic is.

This was followed by Marie Claire Comillon** speaking on “teens”, an interactive session with the chairs rearranged in a circle and some parents and some teens as well as others. Marie-Claire led a lively and helpful discussion, among other things bringing up the needs for both privacy and honesty in relationships with teens.

Rapid rearrangement of chairs again. Jim Hinthorn is the incoming president of NAMI BI, as Steve Holloway leaves us in August. Jim announced that the The Ross Campbell Memorial Award this year would go to Dr. Mark Clark. Pat and Bethany Campbell presented the new plaque, which had not arrived in time last year when Steve Holloway was the first member of the community to receive the award. The Plaque will be kept at the BI Medical Center.

The final event of the conference was a Community Round Table, moderated by Lisa Sprague. For this group meeting the panel members were Vin Carlone, BI Chief of Police, Ed Mc Guirl, Counsellor with Bridgemark, Inc. and on-island counsellor, Maryann Seebeck, Island Care Coordinator, Tracy Fredericks, Telemedicine Case Manager, and Pat Tengwall NAMI BI member and consumer of services, Dr. Mark Clark, Director, BI Medical Center. Thank you Lisa for the skilful moderation that enabled the questions, concerns, and ideas, that NAMI BI and the community can think about for the future, continuing the conversations we have begun.

These included thinking about the permissions necessary, then possibly creating a “buddy” system for individuals who might like to have an island friend around during difficult but not emergency times, and asking mainland care centers and hospitals to link with island care when sufferers were returning to the island.

The services already offered were well explained by Pat Tengwall, and Socha Cohen described the unique atmosphere of the family support group.


The team planners were Socha Cohen, Gloria Redlich, Kristen Baumann, Steve Hollaway and Elspeth Crawford


*Kevin Lyn Sisson, M.A. is a Mental Health Counselor who works with children, adolescents, and adults with anxiety and related concerns.  She has a special interest and expertise in working with adults, caregivers, and elders who are coping with anxiety, depression, displacement, transitions, chronic illness, and end-of-life issues. Kevin graduated from the University of Iowa with a BA in Women’s Studies and Psychology, a MA Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Johns Hopkins University, and a Masters degree in Counseling with a concentration in Geriatrics from Cambridge College in Boston. She utilizes techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy, narrative therapy, and strengths-based perspectives.

**Marie-Claire Cornillon, LICSW is a licensed independent clinical social worker with over 11 years experience working with a wide range of populations in inner city Boston.  Marie-Claire received her BA in sociology from Simmons College and continued at Simmons School of Social Work, earning her MSW in 2004.  During her education, Marie-Claire completed clinical internships in the Massachusetts Department of Social Services, a hospital setting and an out-patient behavioral health clinic.  After earning her Masters of Social Work, Marie-Claire went on to work in agencies focused on issues including substance abuse treatment, homelessness, mental illness, mentoring, geriatrics, physical illness, education, and trauma.  Throughout her career, a special area of interest for Marie-Claire has been the treatment of anxiety which was predominant in nearly every setting in which she worked.  Though trained in multiple treatment modalities, Marie-Claire’s expertise is in cognitive-behavioral and strengths-based treatment of anxiety disorders.  After nearly 20 years in Boston, Marie-Claire recently moved back to her hometown in Rhode Island and is excited to be a part of the New England Center for Anxiety.