Sandra Edwards Colloquium features experts on mental health issues within occupational therapy

The University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions department of occupational therapy hosted its eighth annual Sandra Edwards Colloquium January 27 with a panel of national experts discussing mental health issues in occupational therapy practice and research.

This year’s live, virtual event, “The 360-Degree View of Mental Health and Well-Being for Occupational Therapy,” attracted 155 attendees across 14 states and three foreign countries who represented a mix of faculty, students, clinicians and people serving in practice management roles.

“The World Health Organization states that ‘there is no health without mental health,’” said colloquium organizer Chiung-ju (CJ) Liu, Ph.D., OTR/L, FGSA, an associate professor in the PHHP department of occupational therapy. “We easily forget our own mental health and well-being. The colloquium gave us an opportunity to take a 360-view of ourselves and people around us. The colloquium also reminds us that mental health is not a practice setting or a patient population. Mental health exists anywhere no matter where you practice. Supporting community mental health can be addressed via housing safety, healthy food and meaningful activities, an area in which the profession of occupational therapy has a lot to offer.”

headshot of Ginny Stoffel on blue striped background
Dr. Ginny Stoffel

Ginny Stoffel, Ph.D., O.T., FAOTA, a world renowned expert on mental health and substance use recovery as well as occupational therapy leadership, served as the colloquium’s keynote speaker. Stoffel received the American Occupational Therapy Association’s Award of Merit in 2020 and was named by the AOTA as one of the 100 most influential people who have shaped the profession.

In her presentation, “Talking the talk, walking the walk: Mental health and wellbeing of the occupational therapy workforce,” Stoffel reminded attendees of the importance of occupational therapists participating in activities to support their own mental health while intentionally shaping healthy spaces and engaging others.

Antoine Bailliard, Ph.D., OTR/L, an associate professor of occupational therapy at Duke University, provided the plenary session, “Systems-level change in community mental health: Contributions from occupational therapy” featuring potential opportunities for applying occupational therapy to support mental health in community programs. He is a co-principal investigator on a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant to design an innovative assertive outreach team to meet the needs of adults with serious mental illness who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Colloquium speakers also included Shu-Ping Chen, Ph.D., O.T., an associate professor at the University of Alberta, who shared her qualitative work describing psychological hazards at workplaces and their coping strategies among immigrants, and Martie Gillen, Ph.D., M.B.A., a UF associate professor of family, youth and community sciences, who shared her expertise in trauma-informed care.

The colloquium is made possible by a gift from Al Garcia in recognition of his wife, Sandra Edwards, M.A., OTR, FAOTA, a 1965 graduate of the UF OT program, and her many contributions to the occupational therapy profession.