NAMI conference highlights mental health issues

For five days next month, NAMI Delaware will highlight different aspects of mental health during its annual Inspiring Hope Conference.

“I think people now recognize more than ever the importance of addressing mental health issues, because I think people are recognizing that their mental health has been impacted in some way, shape or form by this pandemic that we’re all experiencing,” said Joshua Thomas, executive director for NAMI Delaware.

The National Alliance On Mental Illness conference, which will run Oct. 5-9, will be free and virtual. To register and receive information on how to attend, go to for further instructions.

“One of the huge advantages to doing this [online] is so many people that would want to attend our conference have barriers to attending the conference when it’s an in-person event,” Dr. Thomas said. “They may lack transportation, they may lack childcare or other things that would prevent them from learning and taking part in these educational sessions. … It’s going to open up the benefit to so many more people.”

The annual conference typically draws about 500 attendees, Dr. Thomas said. This year, they’re expecting at least a thousand people due to a larger volume of participation in virtual events NAMI has hosted through the spring and summer versus.

Each of the days are themed. Monday, Oct. 5, will kick off the conference, with a focus on including diversity in mental health. Dr. Erika Goodwin, a board-certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist, as well as a bestselling author, speaker and integrative lifestyle coach, will serve as the keynote. Other sessions will focus on microaggressions toward LGBTQ+ clients in mental health and complete healing.

On Tuesday, topics will be focused on young adults, with sessions on social emotional learning and talking with children about current events.

Wednesday, speakers will grapple with law enforcement’s role in mental health, with sessions on the Crisis Intervention Team and looking ahead at the intersection of the criminal justice system and mental health.

Supporting family and loved ones will be the focus of Thursday, with topics on geriatric mental health.

The week wraps up with discussion on co-occurring disorders, with sessions on developmental disorders and mental health, and resources in recovery.

A full schedule, with speakers and times, is online at

Each year, Dr. Thomas said they try to look at what is going on in the community, what people are talking about or are concerned about, and what they want to hear about as NAMI curates the line up.

“We always want to inspire hope with our conferences, so we try to give people takeaways that they can apply to their life that’s going to help provide hope for themselves or their loved ones that they can get help and support, and there’s things they can do to make their life better and to support people living in recovery,” he said.