The theme of the 2020 conference is Reframing the Narrative.

When 2020 conference planning began, we set out to challenge the way suicide prevention has historically been done by shifting to an intentional focus on lived experience, social justice, and unpacking the roots of oppression. Rates of suicide attempts and deaths continue to rise despite increased efforts to raise awareness, advocate for funding, further research, and implement the National and Wisconsin Suicide Prevention Strategy.

MHA and the conference planning committee hope to elevate speakers and ideas at this year's conference that push us to rethink the way we talk about suicide and engage in suicide prevention efforts. Reframing the Narrative is more than a one-time theme; we hope to carry forward lessons learned in order to begin reimagining what it would look like if we focused more on building lives worth living and prioritizing voices that have too often been left out of our efforts. 

Keynote Presentations and Breakout Sessions

When you register, you will receive a link to a Live Session Gallery. Session links will not be active until September 8-9. Please review offerings in advance so that you are prepared to attend your preferred breakout sessions. 

Additional breakout session content coming soon! Check back here or be sure to subscribe to our e-newsletter for updates.


Breakout 1 (10:30 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.)

1a. Liberating Suicide Prevention from Coercion 

The suicide rate in the United States continues to rise despite the best efforts of research and practice. Business as usual is struggling to produce the outcomes we want and that people deserve. Inconsistent outcomes mean that tools like crisis lines struggle to stay staffed and funded. It is time for suicidology to take a critical look inward to determine what practices are working and what are not. Using the lens of critical suicidology and psychiatric justice, Jess will examine the evolution of suicidology and the ways power has been used to compel researchers, providers, and service users to engage in practices that often have bad outcomes. We will review power, coercion, criminalization, and pathologization in the historic and current practices in research, prevention, postvention, and crisis work. Through inquiry and reframing, participants will be invited to develop more inclusive and equitable definitions, measurements, and interventions. The workshop will culminate in imagining new directions for suicidology that liberate it from the history of coercion, moving toward the proactive reinforcement of policies, practices, attitudes and actions that produce equitable power, access, opportunities, treatment, impacts and outcomes for people experiencing mental difference and suicidal thoughts, their loved ones, and their allies.

Participants will:

  • Objective 1:
  • Objective 2: 
  • Objective 3: 

Jess Stohlmann-Rainey loves to talk about suicide. She is a mad, queer care worker serving as the Director of Program Development at Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners. She has focused her career on creating pathways to intersectional, justice-based, emotional support for marginalized communities. Jess centers her lived expertise as an ex-patient and suicide attempt survivor in her work. Her work has been featured in Mad in America, Radical Abolitionist, No Restraints with Rudy Caseres, Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Centers, Postvention in Action: The International Handbook of Suicide Bereavement, Crisis, and The Suicide Prevention Resource Center,. She has been featured in USA Today, People Magazine, and her story can be found on Live Through This. She collaborates on a podcast called Suicide ‘n’ Stuff with Dese’Rae Stage from Live Through This. Jess holds the Lived Experience seat on Colorado’s Suicide Prevention Commission, and was the winner of the 2019 American Association of Suicidology Transforming Lived Experience Award, the 2019 Cookie Gant and Bill Compton LGBTQIA Leadership Award for Excellence in Promoting Diversity and Inclusion Award, and chairs the Paul G Quinnett Lived Experience Writing Competition. She lives with her partner (Jon) and chihuahua (Chunk), and has a taxidermied two headed duckling (Phil & Lil) for an office mate.

1b. Finding Your Fairytale: Rethinking Happily Ever After

As children we believed in magic and fairy tales, but as we start to experience the challenges of life, our hope for our own happily ever after tends to fade away. Finding Your Fairytale is an independent documentary that aims to rekindle that childhood optimism and restore hope for happily ever after. The documentary features local survivors who have overcome significant adversity and are sharing their stories through candid interviews to spread hope and break stigma. The film follows as each person transforms into a classic fairytale character for an emotional photoshoot that symbolically depicts the struggle they have experienced and their success in overcoming it.

Director Angie Kupper will share clips from the documentary, putting a new spin on the classic stories to help you reconnect with your favorite fairytales in a more personal and relatable way. Watch as Cinderella overcomes OCD, Alice finds her way out of the rabbit hole of addiction, and Little Red Riding Hood escapes domestic abuse from the Big Bad Wolf. Angie will also share insights learned throughout the filming process on the impact of sharing our darkest chapters, wearing a crown, and seeing yourself as the hero in your story.

Participants will:

  • Objective 1: Understand how sharing personal stories of struggle and recovery helps to reduce stigma and increase hope.
  • Objective 2: Understand the many paths to recovery from mental illness, addiction, trauma, suicide loss, and other issues.
  • Objective 3: Rethink narratives of struggle in the context of fairytales to overcome hardships.

Angie Kupper, Masters in Community Psychology, Licensed Professional Counselor. After losing her mother to suicide when she was a teen, Angie Kupper decided to turn her pain into passion and pursued a career in mental health. She received her bachelor's degree from Marquette University in Psychology in 2010 and her master's degree in Community Psychology from Alverno College in 2016. Angie is a licensed professional counselor at Rogers Behavioral Health where she has worked for nearly 10 years. Angie specializes in Exposure and Response Prevention and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as a therapist and behavior specialist in the Child/Adolescent OCD and Anxiety Partial Hospitalization Program. Wanting to spread the message of hope and resilience to a larger audience, Angie became the director of Finding Your Fairytale, an independent documentary featuring the stories of local survivors who have overcome significant adversity, including mental illness, chronic disease, addiction, and traumatic life circumstances and proving that it’s never too late for happily ever after.

1c. You’re Not Alone: Documentary Screening & Panel Discussion

“You’re Not Alone,” a groundbreaking collaboration between the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Milwaukee PBS, is a documentary following four young people navigating mental health challenges. The film built on several years of reporting on youth mental health with the “Kids in Crisis” series. The film encourages young people to seek help for mental health challenges, while calling for greater support from adults and health systems.

The final product went beyond the 27-minute documentary with an accompanying suicide prevention toolkit at It includes extra video clips, information about specific mental illnesses and how to find help, suggested group discussion questions and a resource directory.

Participants will:

  • Objective 1: Understand the mental health challenges experienced by four young people in Wisconsin.
  • Objective 2: Learn about what has been helpful and unhelpful for youth experiencing mental health challenges.
  • Objective 3: Learn about resources to employ while working with youth in a variety of settings.

Alex Hart-Upendo, filmed at age 12, withstood severe bullying and wrote a goodbye note before getting help and starting his own business.

TJ Esser, filmed at age 16, told viewers about his experience coming out as transgender and discussed the importance of support from family, friends, school staff and others for the mental wellness of students who are transitioning.

Barrett Poetker, filmed at age 19, was bullied and had thought about suicide; she now leads workshops about mental wellness.

Reyna Saldana, filmed at age 20, was abused and moved around in the foster system. She has found healing by learning about the effects of trauma and speaking about it around the state.

Rory Linnane, Reporter at USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin. Rory Linnane is a reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Ideas Lab, which focuses on solutions-oriented journalism. She has been covering youth mental health and planning events for several years with the "Kids in Crisis" series, which led to expansion of school-based mental health services. Last spring, she co-produced a related documentary with Milwaukee PBS. The film, “You’re Not Alone,” follows four young people navigating mental health challenges.

Maryann Lazarski is an award-winning journalist, documentarian, and television producer. She is a recipient of the prestigious Silver Circle Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for devoting 25-plus years to the industry and making significant contributions to Milwaukee television. Maryann is currently in her sixth year as a series and documentary producer for Milwaukee PBS. Maryann serves as the Editorial Producer for Milwaukee PBS, guiding storytelling approaches within the station’s local productions. She is also the executive producer of the Emmy-award-winning 10thirtysix, a news-magazine program on Milwaukee PBS.

1d. Suicide Prevention and COVID-19

COVID-19 has created the “perfect storm” for increased suicide and suicide-related behavior. This presentation will discuss a project that was developed in the Fox Valley to address potential suicide-related issues that may emerge as a response to COVID-19. Because the project team recognized the potential for this early on, they were able to collaborate with local law enforcement, coroner’s office, and county crisis to examine, in real-time, calls to law enforcement involving suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, death by suicide, and other mental health crises. As a result of this real-time monitoring of calls to law enforcement for suicide-related concerns, the community has begun to collaborate on ideas for a new system response that involves other professionals as “first responders” for these calls for service. Having a backbone agency, the Northeast Wisconsin Mental Health Connection (N.E.W. Mental Health Connection), for the mental health services in the Tri-County area, many collaborative relationships were already well established and there have been challenges along the way too, in developing these new system response scenarios.

Participants will: 

  • Objective 1: Discuss the need for an "early warning system" for suicide prevention and review the early warning system that has been established in the Fox Valley.
  • Objective 2: Identify facilitators and barriers to establishing and early warning system, and express potential strategies to overcome barriers.
  • Objective 3: Illustrate partnerships and opportunities for innovation that have developed from the Fox Valley's early warning system.


Sara Kohlbeck is the Assistant Director of the Comprehensive Injury Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Sara's work focuses on advancing science on suicide and suicide prevention, and she works with groups around the state to evaluate suicide prevention programming. She is also a PhD student in Public and Community Health at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and her doctoral studies are focused on suicide in farmers in Wisconsin. Sara earned her Master's in Public Health from the Zilber School of Public Health at UW-Milwaukee, and her Bachelor's of Science in Education from UW-Oshkosh.

Sarah Bassing-Sutton is the Community Suicide Prevention Coordinator with the Northeast Wisconsin Mental Health Connection serving Calumet, Outagamie and Winnebago Counties. Her position is grant funded through the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment to create system change in adult suicide prevention. Sarah has been involved in Suicide Prevention efforts across the lifespan since 2012 and has led the implementation of numerous community wide initiatives and programs. Sarah earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from UW-Oshkosh and specializes in the cultivation of strong collaborative relationships and outside of the box thinking to bring ideas into reality.

1e. Means Matter: A Community Approach to Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety

Access to firearms in moments of crisis presents a uniquely lethal risk in cases of attempted suicide. Ninety percent of suicide attempts using a gun are fatal, compared to 5% of most common alternative methods. Suicidal acts are often impulsive and temporarily preventing access to the most lethal means can save lives.

This session will include a panel of individuals from public health, law enforcement, educational advocacy, and suicide loss survivors who will share intervention strategies, both in practice and through policy changes, which will protect individuals at risk of suicide with a firearm.

Participants will:

  • Objective 1: Understand the impact of firearm suicide in Wisconsin and existing programs to address the issue.
  • Objective 2: Learn about temporarily limiting firearm access for people in acute crisis as a part of a comprehensive suicide prevention strategy.
  • Objective 3: Learn about opportunities for intervention and policy change in Wisconsin including Extreme Risk Protection Orders, Gun Shop Project initiatives, gun safety messaging, safe storage, and health care provider best practices.

Heidi Rose, Program Director for WAVE Educational Fund. Heidi has worked to prevent gun violence in Wisconsin for nearly 20 years. At WAVE, Heidi develops and implements grassroots organizing initiatives designed to advance evidence-based solutions to gun violence and leads statewide coalitions that bring together faith, community, health, and law enforcement organizations. Before coming to WAVE, Heidi’s area of focus was in criminal justice and understanding and preventing the cycle of family violence.

Jean Papalia, NVDRS Abstractor, Suicide Prevention Coordinator at Safe Communities MDC, and Retired Law Enforcement. Jean retired from the City of Madison Police after serving 26 years as a patrol officer. She served as a mental health liaison officer and a neighborhood officer. She was awarded the department's Medal of Valor in 2005 for preventing a hostage take-over of a daycare center. In retirement, she works for Safe Communities of Madison - Dane County as their suicide prevention coordinator. She started The Gun Shop Project in Dane County which began a partnership with Chuck Lovelace, a gun shop owner. They started Safe Storage, a collaboration of suicide prevention and gun shop owners and their customers. She also works as an abstractor for the National Violent Death Reporting System, collecting data on homicides, suicides, and undetermined deaths.

Khary Penebaker is a husband, father, and successful businessman who isn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right. When he was 20 months old, Khary’s mother shot and killed herself when she was only 27. Khary’s mother’s gun suicide is what sparked his advocacy with gun violence prevention. Khary Penebaker is Everytown for Gun Safety’s Wisconsin Survivor Fellow and a WAVE (Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort) board member.

Camila Kahn. I am a 4th year medical student at UW School of Medicine and Public Health. I aim to practice Family Medicine. I joined Doctors For America in 2019, and I am excited to continue advocacy efforts with them as a student and eventually as a physician.

Melissa Murphy, Research Analyst at the WI Office of Children’s Mental Health. Melissa is the Research Analyst at the WI Office of Children’s Mental Health and holds master’s degrees in both Social Work and Public Health. She has extensive knowledge of federal and state data collection systems and measures over 40 indicators of child health and well being including suicide risk, self-harm and deaths. Her work directly informs the governor’s office and state lawmakers.

Gena Orlando, AFSP Wisconsin Area Director. Gena is a founding member of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Wisconsin chapter; serving from December 2013 – May 2019 when she accepted a staff role as the Wisconsin Area Director.

1f. From the Ground Up: A Journey to Zero Suicide

The loss of 6 patients to suicide over a 7-month period prompted a desire for Aurora Sheboygan Memorial Medical Center (ASMMC) to ‘find a better way’ of delivering suicide care. What began as one hospital’s journey to Zero Suicide, prompted an expansion of best practices in suicide-specific care across one of the nation’s largest healthcare systems. ASMMC’s commitment to Zero Suicide mirrored our system’s endeavor toward high reliability and attracted the attention of leaders across the system, emphasizing that suicide prevention is not just a behavioral health issue, but a population health issue that touches every facet of healthcare, including our own workforce. ASMMC navigated implementation of universal screening in our emergency services, inpatient units, behavioral health and primary care offices. A campaign was launched to educate every team member in our healthcare workforce on the risk factors and symptoms of a suicide crisis. We improved care transitions by providing innovative, evidence-based clinical care for patients at risk for suicide. In this session, you will learn strategies to engage leadership to support workforce and workflow change, identify evidence-based suicide care interventions that can be implemented across the care continuum, and learn strategies to overcome barriers in direct care.

Participants will:

  • Objective 1: Describe how one hospital garnered leadership support to promote and implement Zero Suicide strategies across a healthcare system to improve patient outcomes and quality.
  • Objective 2: Identify evidence-based strategies for universal screening, care transitions, and suicide specific care that reduces risk within your hospital setting.
  • Objective 3: Examine barriers to execution and formulate tactics for effective implementation of Zero Suicide strategies in direct care settings.

Lori Knitt, RN, BSN, MS, FACHE, Vice President, Nursing, Aurora Sheboygan Memorial Medical Center. Lori received her bachelor's degree in nursing from Alverno College, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and her Master’s Degree in Business/Organizational Development from Silver Lake College. Originally as an ICCU staff nurse she earned her CCRN certification. She has also held Staff Development and Manager roles. As the Medical Staff/Quality Director, the hospital won the Thomson Reuter’s Top 100 Hospital Award five consecutive years. Currently as Vice President, Nursing Services, Lori has oversight for inpatient, outpatient, emergency, behavioral health and community outreach activities.

Laura Reinemann, RN, BSN oversees the inpatient behavioral health unit at Aurora Sheboygan Memorial Medical Center.  She holds a Bachelor of Nursing Degree from University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.  Ms. Reinemann, has 21 years of experience working in inpatient behavioral health. She is active in the Sheboygan community related to suicide prevention and is a board member for Mental Health America of Sheboygan County and a member of the Healthy Sheboygan County Prevent Suicide Committee.   Ms. Reinemann, trained as part of the MHA Wisconsin Zero Suicide Learning Collaborative and has served as a member of ASMMC’s Zero Suicide Implementation team since 2017.

Rebecca Babcock, BSBA, MHA candidate, is a Strategy and Operations Consultant for AdvocateAuroraHealth in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Ms. Babcock earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee and has more than 19 years of health care experience ranging from c-suite hospital administration support to project management. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in healthcare administration from the University of St. Francis – Joliet, Illinois. Rebecca is project manager for the AdvocateAuroraHealth Zero Suicide Enterprise Expansion Initiative, which has a project scope of bringing ZS to each patient service area throughout the AdvocateAuroraHealth footprint.

Breakout 2 (12:00 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.)

2a. Implementation of Zero Suicide with Children & Adolescents

In 2016 Catalpa Health began the process of looking at how we identify, assess and treat high risk clients. This initiative included all staff at our agency on different levels. Zero Suicide is a framework that looks at suicide as a preventable issue. Zero Suicide initiative has shaped the way that we have interacted with clients and with each other. Training and tools for providers have been a large part of what we have chosen to focus on in order to increase provider confidence in working with high risk clients.

At Catalpa Health we chose to send some staff to be trained by Zero Suicide. Upon their return we developed a steering committee with a variety of team members. Subcommittees were developed in order to really get to work on the various areas that are of emphasis in Zero Suicide. Some specific things we got to work on are trainings, documentation, communication with providers inside and outside of Catalpa Health, caring messages.

Participants will:

  • Objective 1: Learn about the framework for implementing Zero Suicide policies in their agency.
  • Objective 2: Understand specific therapeutic interventions for high risk clients.
  • Objective 3: Be able to employ strategies for assessing and documenting client risk.

Scott Radtke, MSE, LPC, NCC, Chief Clinical Officer, Catalpa Health. Scott joined Catalpa as Day Treatment Manager in February 2016. He has worked in the counseling field for twenty years and has significant clinical and leadership experience, as well as a passion and commitment to the mission and families served by Catalpa. Scott earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology and his master’s in counseling from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Prior to working at Catalpa, he served as the associate dean of student health and wellness at Lawrence University.

Amy Gunderson, LPC, Clinical Mental Health Therapist, Catalpa Health. Amy is licensed in professional counseling and is a certified social worker. She is also nationally certified in trauma focused cognitive behavior therapy and provides supervision and consultation to therapists regarding trauma. Amy works with children of all ages and their families with a wide variety of diagnoses. Amy often works with children and adolescents that are involved in the child welfare system. Additionally, Amy works with children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders as well as cognitive functioning limitations. Amy received her Master of Science degree in clinical mental health counseling with an emphasis in children and adolescents from the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Gina Day, LPC, NCC, Mental Health Therapist and Clinic Project Coordinator, Catalpa Health. Gina is a mental health therapist who treats children of all ages with ADHD, anger issues, anxiety disorders, OCD and related disorders, tics, behavior management issues, self-esteem issues, social skills concerns, autism spectrum disorders and depression. Gina holds her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and Spanish from St. Norbert College and her Master of Arts degree in community counseling with child/adolescent specialization from Marquette University.

2b. Healing Hearts’ Approach to Building Resiliency in Children and Families in the Face of Loss and Adversity

Healing Hearts of Waukesha County provides peer-to-peer grief support for children, teens and families who are grieving the loss of a loved one due to death, divorce, abandonment, separation, military deployment, incarceration, deportation and other life-altering events. Healing Hearts Curriculum is designed to strengthen resiliency skills in children and families while honoring the loss and the feelings associated with it. This session will address the impact of suicide loss on surviving children and families and best practice model to support these families.

Participants will:

  • Objective 1: Understand the principles of grief; special features of suicide grief and tasks of mourning.
  • Objective 2: Understand what children and families experience after the death of someone to suicide.
  • Objective 3: Identify grief support model that creates opportunities for children and families to mourn and heal from their losses.

Melissa Minkley, MSW, CT, Executive Director for Healing Hearts of Waukesha County is the Executive Director for Healing Hearts of Waukesha County a nonprofit organization that provides grief support to children and families coping with an array of losses. She is a social worker with over 25 years of experience in health care supporting individuals and families from diagnosis through end of life and bereavement. In addition, she is the co-founder of Healing Life’s Losses, LLC an organization that is committed to offering services of education, training and support to those who are grieving and those who companion them. Her personal experience of loss as a child and adult has given insight into the impact grief has on individuals, families and friends.

Morgan Griffin, Program Director, Healing Hearts of Waukesha County. Morgan Griffin is the Program Director for Healing Hearts of Waukesha County. She is a recent graduate of UW-Milwaukee with a bachelor of science in Psychology focusing on Child and Adolescent Studies, where she also aided in clinical research for the Child Stress and Coping Lab. Morgan has been a part of Healing Hearts for over 6 years, both as a volunteer facilitator and Program Director. Her first-had experience with loss, especially the suicide of her father, gives Morgan personal understanding of the compassion, empathy and companionship families need during their bereavement journey.

2c. Holistic Approaches for Addressing Trauma: Finding Freedom on Your Yoga Mat

Combining yoga, breath techniques and other holistic therapies to help loosen the emotional and physical tightness in the body caused by mental health disorders, addiction, and trauma. The intention is to find peace, hope and stability during a time when that is missing. To allow participants to surrender in order to let go of pain and reconnect to love and the gift of life. Modalities explored will include meditation, tapping, affirmations, mudras, gentle postures and breath work.

Participants will:

  • Objective 1: Discuss therapeutic approaches using Yoga philosophies to provide support to those struggling with suicidal thoughts, mental health disorders, addiction, trauma, and chronic pain.
  • Objective 2: Demonstrate and practice yoga postures, breath work, meditation, and other holistic therapies to showcase the benefits to those struggling.
  • Objective 3: Create a plan to integrate holistic skills into daily life that aid in the freedom needed.

Cheryl Killilea, 140 hour YogaFit Certified Trauma Informed Yoga Instructor and Owner at Changing Lanes Fitness & Nutrition LLC. Cheryl Killilea is a local entrepreneur, wife and mother of 2. Her daughter has struggled with clinical depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts for over 10 years and this compelled Cheryl to pursue a 140-hour trauma informed yoga certification in hopes to help others that are struggling like her daughter. She offers a Freedom Flow 8-week series in her private studio focusing on various topics and including holistic therapies to help those with mental health disorders, suicidal thoughts, trauma, chronic pain and addictions. Cheryl is also a NASM certified personal trainer, wellness coaching and nutrition specialist. Cheryl enjoys sharing her passion for yoga and other holistic therapies not only as an instructor but also as a participant that has endured her own trauma, PTSD, and addiction. It is during those moments that she found yoga to help her heal on and off the mat and wishes to give others that same gift. She doesn’t believe this is a replacement for traditional therapies, but an enhancement and it offers participants the opportunity to take control over their current situation.

2d. How Are Our US Military Children Doing?

Over 2.1 million military children reside in the US and have experienced at least one deployment of a family member. That number is much higher when including members of the US National Guard and Reserves, almost 10,000 strong in the state of WI. Yet very little resources with knowledge of the military family/lifestyle exist for this resilient population. 20 years into the war on terror, current research tells us our US military children are depressed, anxious, and 3 times more at risk for suicide. This weighs heavily on our US service member's mission. Do you know how you can help?

Participants will:

  • Understand the lifestyle of the military family.
  • Learn about the current health of US military children.
  • Gain tools and resources to employ when working with military children in a variety of settings.

Cindy Brosig, MSN, RN, Animal-Assisted Therapy Practitioner, Operation H.E.E.L., LLC Owner/Founder. Cindy Brosig is a USAF Nurse Corps Veteran, military family member, and Veteran-Owned Business member. She received the WDVA Woman Veteran of the Year Award in 2016 for her Animal-Assisted Therapy Program for Military Children and tireless volunteerism in various US Veteran organizations.

2e. The Role of Spirituality When Discussing Suicide

While many individuals find spiritual beliefs and practices helpful during times of crisis, faith communities can often miss the mark when discussing suicide and thoughts of suicide. This workshop will provide an opportunity to examine and discuss common spiritual narratives and messages about suicide, including harmful spiritual narratives in need of reframing when discussing suicide. Participants will explore ways to sensitively engage with spiritual questions when discussing suicide. Open to all, regardless of religious affiliation.

Participants will:

  • Objective 1: Be able to identify common spiritual understandings of suicide prevalent in U.S. culture.
  • Objective 2: Gain an understanding of the impact of spiritual understandings of suicide, both helpful and harmful.
  • Objective 3: Explore ways to sensitively engage with spiritual questions when discussing suicide.

Victoria (Vic) Welle, Master of Theological Studies, Certified Peer Specialist. Victoria (Vic) Welle is an activist, psychiatric survivor, and once-aspiring minister who remains passionate about creating trauma-informed, culturally sensitive spiritual support for people experiencing emotional distress. Victoria studied theology at Loyola University Chicago and the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University. Vic serves as co-chair of the Wisconsin Certified Peer Specialist Advisory Committee and previously served as director of Monarch House Peer Run Respite.

2f. Acting Shakespeare: Emotional Re-education for Trauma Survivors

Feast of Crispian (FoC) is a non-profit organization that uses acting skills and the rich language of Shakespeare to allow people challenged by the symptoms of trauma to explore and express the big emotions that may be overwhelming them or to reconnect with and embody feelings lost in disassociation. Feeling and expressing a full range of emotions in a healthy way is essential to having satisfying relationships and connected relationships are essential in suicide prevention. With special techniques, participants will immediately be acting Shakespeare and connecting with the emotions and the humanity of the scenes. This session will explain the theories of the work and the basic brain science of trauma as well as give participants a felt-sense experience of the work. FoC has been working with military veterans for seven years but this work is applicable to anyone working in the area of healing trauma.

Participants will:

  • Objective 1: Understand the basic brain science of trauma.
  • Objective 2: Learn about how Shakespeare is special for emotional re-education.
  • Objective 3: Learn about arts-based programming that is essential to suicide prevention.

Nancy Smith-Watson, BA, LMT, Program Director of Feast of Crispian. Nancy is the Program Director of and an actor with Feast of Crispian and a somatic bodywork therapist. After graduating from Circle in the Square Conservatory in 1986, she worked as an actor, trained in massage and somatic bodywork at the Austin School of Massage, and raised three daughters. In 2002 - 2003, Nancy acted with the Montana Repertory Theater, performing in 39 states. In 2012, she co-founded Feast of Crispian with partners, Bill Watson and Jim Tasse.

Breakout 3 (2:15 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.)

3a. Giving Voice to Depression: Online, Upstream Suicide Prevention

A small team of suicide-loss survivors banded together to produce a weekly podcast and online support community that are forming true, meaningful, and even lifesaving connections.

Participants will:

  • Objective 1: Learn how to use personal lived experience in suicide prevention efforts.
  • Objective 2: Understand examples of how "simple," supportive comments can help even a stranger during a mental health crisis.
  • Objective 3: Learn how shared stories communicate key messages about connection, sense of belonging, and hope.

Terry McGuire is the Community & Digital Outreach Specialist for Mental Health America of Wisconsin. A former Wisconsin (Madison and Milwaukee) TV news reporter and anchor, Terry suffered her worst-ever depression a few years ago and came out of it determined to reach others in The Darkness. She founded the non-profit organization Giving Voice to Mental Illness, Inc and its podcast and online outreach Giving Voice to Depression. She is currently working toward National Peer Specialist certification.

Sarah Walters is responsible for managing, monitoring and responding to the Giving Voice to Depression social media community who share with us daily, She is QPR trained, a former member of the Prevent Suicide Greater Milwaukee and board member of Giving Voice to Mental Illness, Inc.

3b. Child Death Review in Wisconsin: Moving Discussion to Action

The death of a child is a tragic event, and many questions surrounding their death often remain unanswered. Child Death Review (CDR) teams aim to answer these questions in order to understand how a child’s death may have been prevented, with the goal of preventing similar child deaths in the future through policy and program implementation. Numerous prevention activities surrounding suicide are being carried out in Wisconsin as a result of Child Death Review, including the development of the Suicide Death Investigation Form and utilizing Lethal Means Restriction.

Participants will:

  • Objective 1: Learn the history, purpose, and structure of Child Death Review in Wisconsin
  • Objective 2: Understand how Child Death Review is used to influence changes in policy or practice
  • Objective 3: Identify examples of prevention recommendations and initiatives from a local CDR team related to child deaths due to suicide

Natasha Tynczuk, MPH, Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin, is the data project Manager at Children’s Health Alliance, working within their Injury Prevention and Child Death Review Initiative. She is a recent graduate of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Zilber School of Public Health, where she received her Masters in Public Health with an emphasis in Epidemiology. In her role at the Alliance, she provides technical assistance to child death review teams throughout Wisconsin and assists teams with improving data quality and translating their data into prevention recommendations.

Teresa Paulus has been a Public Health Nurse for 30 years with Winnebago County Health Department. Co-chairs the Winnebago County Child Death Review Team (CDRT). Steering Committee member for the National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention/Action Team for Youth Suicide Prevention. Team member for Wisconsin’s SPRC Community of Practice on State Infrastructure for Suicide Prevention. Leads community efforts based on CDRT recommendations notably in the area of Suicide Prevention: Lethal Means Restriction, Memorialization after a Suicide, Data collection through the Suicide Death Investigation Form. Teresa knows the all-consuming grief of losing a child and values the work of the Child Death Review Team in saving the lives of our children.

3c. Mindful Self-Compassion

When we sign on to the work of preventing suicide, we become a resource to individuals coping with tremendous anguish and pain.

  • How can we face such suffering while remaining compassionate and effective in our work?
  • Cope with the inevitable mistakes we all make as humans?
  • And can we be as kind and caring toward ourselves as we are to a dear friend?

Discover how mindful self-compassion can become an essential inner resource in our daily lives for remaining balanced and resilient. When we nurture our self-compassion and include ourselves in our circle of care, we are able to change how we talk to ourselves, and how we relate to the inevitable struggles and pain in life - We reframe our narrative! Join me and we’ll cover the basics of Mindful Self-Compassion, and together explore several Mindful Self-Compassion practices to take with you into your workday and your life.

Participants will:

  • Objective 1: Describe the theory and research supporting mindful self-compassion, particularly as it supports emotional well-being.
  • Objective 2: Understand how self-compassion practices support emotional regulation during tough circumstances.
  • Objective 3: Discover how practicing self-compassion nurtures and sustains our compassion for others when working in our suicide prevention roles.

Barbara Moser, MD, Trained Teacher in Mindful Self-Compassion. Barbara Moser is a board-certified family practice physician and Trained Teacher in Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) through the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion She spent the majority of her medical career providing integrated medical and behavioral health care for college students, and over the past 12 years has been a strong advocate for emotional wellness and suicide prevention in the Greater Milwaukee region. Barbara has lived with her own depression and episodic suicidal behavior and has found MSC practices to be a key resource in increasing capacity for emotional regulation, balance and resilience, and particularly helpful for persons who live with ongoing mental health issues. Barbara received her MD from Northwestern University in Chicago in 1984, and she completed her family practice residency at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester MA in 1987.

3d. School-based Youth Suicide Prevention 

session details coming soon!

Participants will:

  • Objective 1: 
  • Objective 2: 
  • Objective 3: 

3e. TUGS: Talking, Understanding, Growing, Supporting

session details coming soon!

TUGS is a nonprofit community organization founded in 2013 with a singular mission: to address the stigma surrounding mental health challenges and suicide, particularly among those members of our society who find it most difficult to accept and express their very real personal struggles and professional frustrations. We work directly with individuals and in partnership with other community groups to promote both mental health awareness and suicide prevention.

Participants will:

  • Objective 1: 
  • Objective 2:
  • Objective 3: 
  • Objective 4: 

3f. Trauma or Transformation – Creating Post Traumatic Growth and Resiliency in Times of Prolonged Duress

CoVid19 has brought with it extended “Safer at Home” confinement and the daily stress of fear of the unknown future. As the media reports hour by hour the rising numbers of infections and deaths and the struggling economy as many are not working and businesses have slowed or closed. It will be weeks, possibly months, of imminent danger and many more months of recovery. This is more than Stress – it is Prolonged Duress. This situation can rise to the level of trauma for many as we experience the threat of the extinction of life as we knew it combined with the unknown future.

We can however make choices and take action that can prevent the “disorder” part of the process, whether Prolonged Duress or Post Traumatic Stress, by taking action now to create Post Traumatic Growth and build Resiliency.

This class is presented in a live, interactive and conversational format on Zoom, practicing physical distancing while creating connection. It is not a lecture. Valuable information and tools will be shared. A summary of the class will be available along with resources for further learning,

Participants will:

  • Objective 1: Understand the impact of prolonged duress on mental health
  • Objective 2: Understand how prolonged duress affects the brain and interpersonal connection
  • Objective 3: Learn actions to create resiliency and post-traumatic growth

Patricia Clason, Program Founder, Healing Warrior Hearts, Taking It Lightly, Starfish Foundation. Patricia Clason is co-founder of Bamboo Bridge, Vets Journey Home and Healing Warrior Hearts, emotional healing programs for veterans, helping to heal warrior hearts for over twenty-five years. She is also the creator of Taking It Lightly, an emotional healing program for the general public. A weekend in Colorado in 1983 introduced Patricia to Understanding Yourself and Others, which morphed into Taking It Lightly in 1986 (read her story at lightly.html#patricia). Patricia also co-authored and teaches Step Into the Light, Walking in the Light, and Dancing in DeLight, Renewal for Sexual Assault Survivors and Grief Relief, all weekend intensives for emotional intelligence and healing. She is the co-instructor for the Trauma Counseling Certificate Program at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee School of Continuing Education She also teaches the Trauma Recovery Facilitation Training with Curtis Mitchell, a four-day program for facilitators on emotional healing and somatic release work. Thirty-five plus years of doing her own personal growth work and studying psychology and life have given her deep compassion, understanding and empathy for the challenges that are brought to the Taking It Lightly and Healing Warrior Hearts retreats.

Breakout 4 (Wednesday, 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.)

4a. Best Practice for Conceptualizing Suicide Risk and Effective Safety Planning

Many practices for conceptualizing suicide risk among clients are outdated and do not incorporate advances from the field of Suicidology pertaining to contextualizing factors that impact transitions from ideation to action. Using case scenarios and small-group interaction, this session will provide clinicians with an update on current, evidence-based models for conceptualizing suicide risk that also facilitate best-practice safety planning to keep clients out of the hospital. Research evidence regarding effective safety planning and practices will also be reviewed, with a brief highlight of cell phone apps that may enhance in-session prevention work.

  • Objective 1: Describe the new, recommended suicide risk formulation model and apply it to a case example.
  • Objective 2: Describe the research evidence supporting a best-practice model for safety planning.
  • Objective 3: Identify the effective elements of a safety planning approach, including select phone apps, that may reduce hospitalization and prevent suicide deaths.

Jennifer J. Muehlenkamp, PhD, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Suicide Prevention and Research Collaborative (SPARC) at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Jennifer J. Muehlenkamp, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist and Professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She is an internationally renowned expert on non-suicidal self-injury and suicide; having published over 100 research articles and book chapters on the topic of assessment, treatment, and risk and protective factors. She is a co-author of two books (Non-Suicidal Self-Injury in Eating Disorders and Nonsuicidal Self-Injury: Advances in Psychotherapy), and regularly consults with, and trains, behavioral health professionals. Dr. Muehlenkamp’s work has been honored with awards from the American Association of Suicidology and the Self-Injury Awareness Network. She has received over $2 million dollars in local and federal grants to support her work. Dr. Muehlenkamp currently serves as an Associate Editor for the field’s flagship journal, Suicide & Life-Threatening Behavior, and is a consulting editor for Archives of Suicide Research. Dr. Muehlenkamp is also the director of the UWEC Suicide Prevention and Research Collaborative, guiding suicide prevention initiatives on campus. She is a certified Master Trainer for Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) and for AMSR (Assessment and Management of Suicide Risk) evidence-based training programs. Dr. Muehlenkamp is a member of the WI Suicide Prevention steering committee as well as the Prevent Suicide Chippewa Valley coalition, past chair of the Research and Student Divisions of the American Association of Suicidology and is Past-President of the International Society for the Study of Self-Injury.

4a. Faith Based Suicide Prevention

session details coming soon!

Keynote Presentations

Why Working Harder Isn't Working: How White Supremacy Culture Undermines our Efforts - Jess Stohlmann-Rainey

This session will explore the ways in which white supremacy culture has shaped suicide prevention and interferes with our ability to understand and effectively support suicidal people. Mainstream suicide prevention is dominated by an understanding of suicide that locates the problem of suicide within individuals, and then pathologizes it. Most mainstream suicide prevention efforts ignore the cultural and social factors that contribute to suicide, thereby whitewashing it. This approach is not only deeply embedded in white supremacy, but has failed to produce desired outcomes at scale. Despite all of mainstream suicide prevention’s efforts, suicide rates in the United States have continued to rise. Jess will use Tema Okun's white supremacy culture framework to analyze how this culture operates in mainstream suicide prevention; how this culture has interfered with our ability to understand and prevent suicide; and propose alternative ways of thinking about and implementing suicidology that decolonize our work. At the end of this presentation, attendees will be able to:

  • articulate characteristics of white supremacy culture.
  • articulate antidotes to white supremacy culture.
  • articulate strategies for resisting white supremacy culture in their suicide prevention work.

Jess Stohlmann-Rainey loves to talk about suicide. She is a mad, queer care worker serving as the Director of Program Development at Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners. She has focused her career on creating pathways to intersectional, justice-based, emotional support for marginalized communities. Jess centers her lived expertise as an ex-patient and suicide attempt survivor in her work. Her work has been featured in Mad in America, Radical Abolitionist, No Restraints with Rudy Caseres, Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Centers,  Postvention in Action: The International Handbook of Suicide Bereavement, Crisis, and The Suicide Prevention Resource Center. She has been featured in USA Today, People Magazine, and her story can be found on Live Through This. She collaborates on a podcast called Suicide ‘n’ Stuff with Dese’Rae Stage from Live Through This. Jess holds the Lived Experience seat on Colorado’s Suicide Prevention Commission, and was the winner of the 2019 American Association of Suicidology Transforming Lived Experience Award, the 2019 Cookie Gant and Bill Compton  LGBTQIA Leadership Award for Excellence in Promoting Diversity and Inclusion Award, and chairs the Paul G Quinnett Lived Experience Writing Competition. She lives with her partner (Jon) and chihuahua (Chunk), and has a taxidermied two headed duckling (Phil & Lil) for an office mate. 

Pulling Back the Layers: How Racism and Discrimination Impacts Suicide Prevention - Brandon J. Johnson, M.H.S.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has shown that African American children, ages 5-12, have seen a significant increase in suicide rates over the last few years. This rate has been increasing over the last 15 years, despite the suicide rate decreasing for white children of the same age range. The suicide rate of American Indian/Alaska Native youth under 18 are continuing to see increases as well. Latinx, African-American, and AI/AN people have disproportionately been seeing challenges from COVID-19. Brandon J. Johnson will discuss how specific population-centered issues such as systemic racism, historical trauma, and discrimination frame our work and impact communities of color. Strategies for addressing these barriers to care head-on will be discussed. At the end of this presentation, attendees will be able to:

  • Describe the most recent data trends on increases in suicide deaths and attempts among various populations.
  • Explain implementation strategies for various systems to address the mental health and suicide prevention needs of youth and adults of various ages and backgrounds.
  • Recognize the various social determinants of health that uniquely impact the mental health of people of color.

Brandon J. Johnson, M.H.S. is a tireless advocate for positive mental health and suicide prevention services for youth and adults across the country.  Brandon earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from Morgan State University in 2008 and a Master of Health Science Degree from Johns Hopkins University in 2012.  Currently, he serves as a Public Health Advisor at the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the Suicide Prevention Branch at the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS).  In this role, Brandon serves as a Government Project Officer (GPO) for various suicide prevention grant programs that respectively target youth, adults, and health care systems.  Brandon is also the GPO for the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) which provides suicide-specific materials, webinars, and training to organizations and communities all over the country working to prevent suicides.  Another highlight of Brandon’s career is his current role as the Co-Lead of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Faith Communities Task Force.  The group works with faith communities all over the nation to equip them with tools and resources to combat the often stigmatized issue of suicide.  Brandon has lead numerous projects to develop resources and materials to specifically prevent suicide among African-American youth.  Previously, Brandon served as the Director of Suicide and Violence Prevention for the State of Maryland where he worked in communities throughout the state to help develop strategies to end violence in various forms, such as community violence and human trafficking.  In this role, Brandon also worked on the MD Governor’s Commission on Suicide Prevention as well as organized the annual Suicide Prevention Conference.

Live Through This: A Lifetime With Suicidal Thoughts, & Art as Social Justice - Dese’Rae L. Stage

In a series of “snapshots,” Dese’Rae L. Stage shares her experiences with suicidal thoughts (and sometimes more) over the course of her lifetime. She covers family dynamics and the teenage years—the difficult transition from middle to high school, questioning her sexuality; an abusive relationship; divorce; infertility; and how suicidal thoughts cropped up in each. She shows the audience a living portrait reflecting recent CDC findings indicating that suicide is a response to adversity, rather than mental illness as a singular cause. She walks us down the path that led her to Live Through This and brings the voices of attempt survivors with her through portraits, quotations, and video—literally taking the audience into an interview with her. She discusses major themes that crop up in the stories of survivors, along with the impact the project has made in a number of contexts. Stage implores listeners to open their hearts and their minds to those of us who have literally lived through it, and provides incontrovertible evidence that suicide affects all of us. Audiences can expect a talk that will be revealing, often touching, always honest and, ultimately, hopeful. (Funny, too!)

Following the talk, Stage will facilitate a panel discussion with three individuals in Wisconsin who have experienced suicidal thoughts and/or suicide attempts. Their perspectives provide invaluable expertise to stakeholders engaged in this work across various sectors. By listening to and centering the voices of people who have been there, we seek to reframe the narrative around suicide and suicide prevention in our state. At the end of this presentation, attendees will be able to:

  • Empathize with and identify similarities between themselves and those with lived experience of suicidal thoughts and actions.
  • Identify how disclosure of lived experience benefits both the storyteller and the public.
  • Discuss suicide as a complex phenomenon that occurs within and beyond the context of mental illness.

Dese’Rae L. Stage is an artist, mom, suicidologist, activist, and MSW student. She created Live Through This, a documentary-style multimedia storytelling series that aims to reduce prejudice and discrimination against suicide attempt survivors. Live Through This reminds us that suicide is a human issue by elevating and amplifying survivors’ voices through raw, honest stories of survival, and pairing them with portraits—putting faces and names to the statistics that have been the only representation of attempt survivors in the past. Live Through This has received media coverage from the New York Times, People Magazine, CNN, NPR, CBS Evening News, VICE, and more.

Following the Wednesday morning keynote, Dese'Rae L. Stage will facilitate a panel discussion with three individuals in Wisconsin who have experienced suicidal thoughts and/or suicide attempts. Their perspectives provide invaluable expertise to stakeholders engaged in this work across various sectors. By listening to and centering the voices of people who have been there, we seek to reframe the narrative around suicide and suicide prevention in our state. 

At the end of this presentation, attendees will be able to:

  • Empathize with and identify similarities between themselves and those with lived experience of suicidal thoughts and actions.
  • Identify how disclosure of lived experience benefits both the storyteller and the public.
  • Discuss suicide as a complex phenomenon that occurs within and beyond the context of mental illness.

Dylan Sessler lost his father to suicide at 6 years old, his troubled childhood included things like domestic abuse and bullying which brought him to join the military. Dylan is now a currently serving 12-year veteran in the WI Army National Guard with 2 combat deployments to Afghanistan as a Staff Sergeant. His service in Afghanistan brought him uncomfortably close to the realities of war as well as seeing firsthand the difficulties and effects of PTSD and Trauma. While earning his bachelors degree in sociology and working multiple part-time jobs, Dylan's lifetime of struggle brought him to nearly end his own life. Following that intense moment, Dylan made the choice to create a better future for himself and others. Through his willingness to open up about his experience, Dylan exposes a unique perspective through his lived experience. Now, he is currently working on writing a book detailing his experiences and working towards showing people a path to internal stability and happiness. He continues to coach people to find their path to overcoming and actively works to change the perception of suicide and how we talk about it through multiple venues.


Jeannine Rivers Colburn is an author, motivator, musician and suicide attempt survivor who enjoys inspiring people with her heartfelt stories, life lessons, and music of hope. As an inspirational speaker and confidence coach, it is Jeannine's goal to instill hope and peace in the heart and minds of individuals who don’t see a way out beyond their hurt and pain. Her workshops and speaking engagements motivate thoughts of power and leave her audience speaking life within their soul.





Shae Garbe. I'm 22, and I grew up in Indiana. Mental health is my passion. I’ve learned a lot in my own journey and I want nothing more than to share that knowledge with others! I co-facilitate NAMI Fox Valley's Young Adult Support Group, and I give speeches through a program from NAMI Fox Valley called Ending the Silence.