Editorial cartoonist draws attention to mental illness during Conference
- November 25, 2014
On Oct. 11, more than 260 SERV Behavioral Health System consumers from 10 New Jersey counties participated in the 12th Annual Recovery NJ Conference, where they were able to not only enjoy the camaraderie of fellow consumers, but also attend fun and educational workshops geared toward their recovery needs.
Sponsored by SERV free-of-charge for all of our residents and day program consumers, the daylong health-and-wellness event began with a continental breakfast and featured 10 Recovery & Wellness workshops led by SERV staff members as well as outside volunteers. Some consumers' family members also came out to the event to network with other families.
All 420+ people in attendance at The Pines Manor in Edison enjoyed a sit-down luncheon prior to the keynote address and received a goody bag with a black fleece neck scarf embroidered with the SERV logo.
The topics of the workshops presented at the conference were selected earlier in the year by consumers who were planning to attend. They requested to repeat seven popular workshops from previous years and to add three new workshops, which were "Yoga and Relaxation," "How to Cope with Loss and Loneliness" and "Music and Dance." The other workshops were "Nutrition/Better Food Choices," "Money Matters," "Living Well Through the Years (for ages 50+)," "Look Good/Feel Great," "Hobbies," "Social Skills and Relationships" and "Medication and Recovery."
This year's keynote speaker was Scott Nychay, who traveled from Chicago to present his message of recovery from mental illness. A former award-winning editorial cartoonist, Mr. Nychay was diagnosed with clinical depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. He spoke to the audience about his life of ups and downs, while illustrating these moments through drawings from an iPad to overhead video screen.
"I thought the speaker was great," said one attendee. "I bought his book! His story made me realize how someone with such challenges as he had/has, can, with great support, turn his life around. He made me feel grateful for many things in my life."
Currently, Mr. Nychay has his own studio and speaks with organizations about using art to manage co-occurring disorders. His clients have included the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association; the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; National Coalition for the Homeless, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance; Suicide Awareness Voices of Education; and Microsoft.
Mr. Nychay attended Drake University, Poynter Institute for Media Studies, and received his B.A. degree from Columbia College.
His work has appeared on CBS, NBC and in USA Today. He is the recipient of more than 20 honors, including first in the nation from the Associated Press Sports Editors and the John Fischetti Finalist Award.
After his keynote address, Mr. Nychay was available in the lobby to sign copies of his first graphic novel, "Drawing Strength."
The annual Recovery NJ Conference could not have been as successful without the support and participation of our sponsors, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and ExactCare Pharmacy; the staff members and volunteers who offered their expertise to lead the workshops; workshop monitors and registration staff; and finally the committee members from all regions who worked for months planning and executing the event.