Bringing mental health awareness to the community

By Emily Saltzman • JFCS Community Services Director 


On Oct. 23 more than 500 individuals attended our 16th annual Conference on Mental Health. This year’s conference, Forecast: Resilience, Weathering Life’s Storms, which brought together professionals, mental health organizations and community members, was organized and planned by a stellar team of dedicated volunteers. These volunteers researched keynote speakers, secured breakout session facilitators, organized our resource fair, blanketed the community with advertising brochures and gathered in-kind donations to make this day a success.


This year’s keynote address was provided by our very own Ken Barlow, who has been speaking openly about his Bipolar diagnosis and the immense support his family and community provides. The conference also offered 21 breakout sessions on topics such as dementia, first-episode psychosis, mental health in the Jewish tradition and practical tools for self-soothing.


Two weeks later we also organized two additional events for our Forgiveness and Healing Within the Family series. The first was a community film screening on Nov. 6 of Look at Us Now, Mother which covers the story of a challenging mother and daughter relationship. The New York Times describes it as … “heart-wrenching – and, ultimately, heartwarming – story of acceptance and forgiveness.” This screening drew over 100 attendees to watch the film and engage in a Q&A session with the filmmaker, Gayle Kirschenbaum. To learn more about the film please visit The film is set to come out on Netflix in March 2017.


Our second event in the Forgiveness and Healing Within the Family series gave us the opportunity to partner with the Social Work Department at Augsburg College. On Nov. 7, we co-hosted a conference for professionals featuring a screening of Look at Us Now, Mother, and a panel with local professionals, clergy and the filmmaker, followed by two breakout sessions focused on healing and forgiveness. These sessions featured discussions on healing after divorce, forgiveness after abuse, healing and forgiveness in LGBTQ families and how story-telling provides opportunities for healing. We hosted over 80 social service professionals from across the metro area for this first-time event.