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School of Psychology and Counseling Hosts Practitioner-Scholar Conference

By Brett Wilson | April 17, 2013

Dr. Thomas Joiner

On Saturday, April 5, Regent University's School of Psychology & Counseling (SPC) hosted its second Practitioner-Scholar Conference. The conference gives Regent psychology and counseling students, as well as practitioners in the Hampton Roads area, the opportunity to collaborate with international leaders within the field of mental health and to receive advanced training and opportunities for professional development.

"It was great to see the SPC students band together in support of the event," said Justin Hopkins, SPC student and executive board member of the Practitioner-Scholar Conference.

This year's conference featured distinguished speakers who delivered lectures on a broad spectrum of disciplines in the field of mental health, including art therapy, primary mental health integration, and international perspectives on mental wellness.

"Our keynote speakers were simply phenomenal," said Hopkins. "Each speaker presented topics that were pertinent to clinical practice."

One of these speakers was distinguished scholar Dr. Thomas Joiner, visiting the conference from Florida State University. Joiner offered insight into his specific area of expertise: suicidology.

Along with participating in last weekend's conference, Joiner also spoke to Regent faculty and staff members in a special forum geared toward understanding the risks associated with suicidal behavior and preventing the number of suicides on college campuses. According to Joiner, in the United States alone, nearly one hundred people die a day from suicide.

"It's a relatively rare cause of death," said Joiner. "But, still, one hundred a day is a lotit's way too many."

This rarity has become less of an enigma in the field of mental health over the last few years, as public health professionals have studied the root causes of many suicides. Many individuals displaying a high risk of suicidal behavior show a simultaneous attitude of "learned fearlessness" and "perceived burdensomeness," according to Joiner.

"It's a tragedy in and of itself when people feel this way," said Joiner.

But the real tragedy is even greater when this lost sense of meaning and the infliction of bodily abuse lead to absolute self-injury. Robbie Kuschel, Regent staff counselor, has witnessed these challenges, and works to prevent this feeling of a thwarted sense of belonging.

"Suicide is a very real problem—one that crosses all lines and has even affected many lives here at Regent," said Kuschel. "[Joiner's] model is one that I can immediately incorporate into my practice, especially as it relates to assessing risk levels in the students I serve."

Though, in the long run, this acceptance of mental struggles and the current open climate of talking about and facing these struggles is the first step to reducing the number of people America loses a day to suicide. According to Joiner, welcoming those on the outside, surrounding ourselves with others in the midst of national tragedies, and making others feel needed will decrease the misery of suicide.

"Pulling together is key to lower suicide rates," said Joiner.

Learn more about the School of Psychology & Counseling.


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