School leaders engage mental health issues

November 29, 2018
Mark Tarnacki
Staff Writer

Hope Happens Here

Saint Michael’s College alumni, faculty and staff will be well represented among expert presenters about student-athlete mental health and concussions during an all-day Vermont Principals Association (VPA) conference this Friday, Nov. 30 on campus

The event is the inaugural “VPA Mental Health Day,” hosted by Saint Michael’s College, and about 100 principals, athletic directors and other school leaders from around Vermont are expected to attend.

Registration for the event will be in the Dion Family Student Center first-floor lobby from 8:45 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Friday; a Keynote Address will be presented in the Dion Center’s 3rd floor Roy Room by James Howland Ed.D ‘88 (photo at left),Howland James mental health clinician from Merrimack College. After a lunch in Alliot Hall’s Green Mountain Dining Hall, the day’s program will continue with breakout sessions from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Jeanmarie Hall (third floor).

Afternoon presenters for a variety of programs from which attendees may choose are: Kimberly Quinn Smith ’88, a St. Mike’s alumna who now works at Champlain College teaching psychology and who has researched links of concussions to depression, anxiety and life satisfaction; David Landers of the Saint Michael’s psychology faculty and the longtime NCAA athletic representative for St. Mike’s; a group of Saint Michael’s current Hope Happens Here student-athletes, who will be making a presentation together on the group’s work raising awareness on mental health issues among student-athletes; and Nicole Adach ’13, a Saint Michael’s College mental health clinician, mental skills coach and personal trainer who did her master’s in clinical psychology at Saint Michael’s focusing her thesis on athlete identity.

Landers parlayed some of his personal statewide NCAA connections and stateside or campus initiatives to make Friday’s conference a reality: Dave Marlow ’06, a former Landers work-study student, is a leader for Vermont’s main athletic directors’ professional group, and invited Landers to bring Hope Happens Here students from St. Mike’s both to his school (Mount Mansfield) for some programs with students and parents, and also to present for a large meeting of the Vermont High School Athletics Directors group in Randolph last April. Some attendees from there in leadership roles talked to Landers about possibly holding the event at Saint Michael’s and the program came together after that.David Landers

In his Friday presentation, Landers (photo at right) will speak primarily about concussion — a topic about which he has made presentations at NCAA national conventions several times. It has dramatized for him what a timely and important topic this is for high school and college leaders alike these days — and not just as relating to athletes: He notes that an initiative at Saint Michael’s in recent years yielded data showing that of 58 students documented to have issues of concussions at St. Mike’s (who were looked at stemming from Landers’ work and a resulting committee study) just 18 were varsity athletes –“so we had 40 students, whether it from skiing or snowboarding or campus mishaps or whatever else, with that condition.” Since then, workshops and initiatives to address the issue and properly deal with concussed students have resulted at Saint Michael’s and elsewhere, including parts of Friday’s program, in order to build needed greater awareness.

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