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Sunshine From Darkness

Date: Oct 28, 2023


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“Breaking the Silence —One Woman’s Ongoing Journey to Mental Well-Being”

Linda Larsen, BSW, MFA, CPAE

Larsen believes strongly in the power of engaging in critical conversations about mental wellbeing. For too long, she – like many others – felt shrouded in shame about revealing her deepest fears. Fear that there was something profoundly wrong with her. Fear that she couldn’t possibly live with the gripping terror and depression that seemed to come out of nowhere. And fear that speaking up about it would confirm just how sick and hopeless her life really was. Those fears drove her to the brink of suicide several times, up to and including the day she was taken hostage by an escaped convict and held at gunpoint for six hours – a truly life-changing experience that dramatically shifted her perspective about life and death.


“Have no Fear! Taking Steps Toward Understanding and Coping with Anxiety”

Rebecca Etkin, Ph.D.
Yale Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine

Dr. Rebecca Etkin is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Yale Child Study Center Anxiety & Mood Disorders Program, where she studies and treats anxiety disorders and related difficulties in children and adolescents. Dr. Etkin received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Johns Hopkins University and her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from SUNY Buffalo.


“It Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me”

David Romano
Mental Health Advocate and Therapist

David Romano was a multi-sport athlete who tried to maintain his outward image as the fun, goofy kid, and used sports and other activities to cover his inner struggle. A mental health checklist he read in health class shed a light on his symptoms, and he began at treatment plan under the care of a professional. After a dark period of struggling, David began to embrace himself and his diagnosis, and since getting the support and help he needed, he is now committed to letting others, especially men, know that it isn’t a weakness to ask for help.

David has been a mental health advocate since he was eighteen, and along with his work as an Active Minds speaker and advocate, has collaborated with the United States Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Mental Health, Speaking Up For Kids, and Human Relations Media.

David earned his bachelor’s degree at the College of St. Scholastica, and his Master’s Degree in Social Work at the University of Washington. He is now an accomplished social worker and has worked in residential, partial hospitalization, outpatient, inpatient, and community non-profit settings, working with child, adolescent, adult, family and geriatric populations.

Active Minds is the nation’s premier nonprofit organization supporting mental health awareness and education for young adults. Since 2009, Active Minds speakers have been providing engaging, encouraging, and safe mental health education that’s tailored for students, young adults, educators, professional groups, and other audiences.

Active Minds is opening up the conversation about mental health and creating lasting change in the way mental health is talked about, cared for, and valued in the United States.

“What, How and Why to Stop the Cycle”

Sidney Turner, Ph.D.
Founder Resilient Retreat

Sidney Turner, Ph.D., is a psychologist, researcher, and founder of Resilient Retreat. She has dedicated the last decade to advocating for survivors of trauma and studying evidence-based strategies to prevent and intervene in situations involving trauma. She has published many peer-reviewed articles on trauma and has presented at conferences around the country. In addition to her research, Dr. Turner also volunteers as a victim advocate at SPARCC (Sarasota crisis center), a victim advocate at Centerstone (Manatee crisis center), Rotary Club of Longboat Key, SRQ Strong, and on the Board of Florida Partnership to End Domestic Violence. Dr. Turner strongly believes that people are not defined by their trauma and programs should focus on the many strengths that can come from overcoming adversity, not just the challenges.

“State of the Union, Coping Skills and How Parents Can Help”

Jennifer Katzenstein, Ph.D.
ABPP-CN Co-Director Center for Behavioral Health, Pediatric Neuropsychologist, Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital

Jennifer M. Katzenstein, PhD, ABPP-CN is a board-certified pediatric neuropsychologist, Director of Psychology and Neuropsychology at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She received her PhD from Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis in clinical psychology and completed her internship year and 2-year post-doctoral fellowship in pediatric neuropsychology at Texas Children’s Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine. She then served as assistant professor of clinical neurology at Indiana University School of Medicine and pediatric neuropsychologist at Riley Hospital for Children.

She joined Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in 2015 to develop and grow the Neuropsychology division, and subsequently the Psychology division. Her research has focused on neuropsychological outcomes in multiple childhood medical conditions, including cognitive impact of concussion and neurocognitive late effects of treatments for pediatric cancer. Clinically, she focuses on evaluation of neurocognitive strengths and challenges for children with multiple medical conditions, and works closely with schools and treatment teams to implement interventions to assist in maximizing educational potential and success for children.

“System of Care”
Laura Carson, M.A.
Behavioral Health System Coordinator Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County

Laura Carson is the Behavioral Health System Coordinator with the Florida Department of Health/Sarasota County Health and Human Services. She earned her Psychology Degree from the University of Florida and her Master’s Degree in Counselor Education at the University of South Florida. Laura started her career in the child welfare system in 2000, providing direct services and oversight to the system of care for over 15 years.

Her current role includes monitoring and identifying needs, priorities and resources for the behavioral health system of care in Sarasota County. Through this work, Laura has established networks and collaborations to promote community outreach, obtained public input and enhanced public-private partnerships in implementing programming to meet the community’s needs.

She acts as a liaison and maintains close working relationships with community leaders, advocates, funders and provider agencies. Laura provides support to the Behavioral Health Stakeholders’ Consortium, Acute Care System Task Force, and the Behavioral Health Advisory Council, as well as serves on several community-wide groups that impact behavioral health, criminal justice, and children and youth.

“Lived Experiences … The Family Consumer Voice”
Sarah Miller, CRPS
Family and Peer Service Director NAMI Sarasota and Manatee Counties

Sarah Miller is a subject matter expert, passionate about sharing the different community and peer support can make in the lives of people seeking recovery. She uses her lived experience as someone who utilized many community resources to support herself and her family, to share with others currently seeking to navigate the system and empowers them with helpful strategies and skills she learned along the way.

Sarah draws on this expertise, coupled with her knowledge of working with many grassroots and community-based organizations, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), along with her understanding of working with local mental health providers, and on the Florida Children’s Mental Health System of Care grant, with the local managing entity. This life work has offered her a broad perspective of how person-centered services are not only intended to be administered, but how they are directly experienced by the individual, and why consumer voice and choice are critical to ensure effective and sustainable care.

In her current position as the Family and Peer Services Director with NAMI Sarasota and Manatee Counties, Sarah works diligently to expand networks of natural support for individuals, by working to increase access to the knowledgeable and empathetic system experts of peer supporters, who can help guide individuals and families while uniquely and tangibly offering hope for a
better future.

“Seeking help with accessing Children’s Mental Health & Behavioral Health Resource”
Kimberly Kutch, MA, MS, Ed.S, CPM
Human Services Manager
Sarasota County Health and Human Services

Kimberly Kutch is the Human Services Manager with Sarasota County Government and oversees Contracted Human Services, System Coordination and Veteran’s Services. Kimberly has a BA in Criminology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, a MS in Administration of Criminal Justice from Shippensburg University, an MA in Mental Health Counseling from the University of Sarasota, and an EdS in School Guidance from Argosy University. She is also a Certified Public Manager and has her certificate in Trauma &Resilience Level 1. Kimberly began her career as a Probation Officer in Butler County, Pennsylvania. She moved to Florida in 1995 and began her career in the Florida Child Welfare System, with the majority of her time spent in various positions with the Department of Children and Families.

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