WASECA — Waseca held its fifth annual Promoting Peace conference Sept. 28 at the Mill Event Center.

The topic at the conference changes each year with this year’s conference exploring mental health and wellness of Waseca community members.

“Promoting Peace is a collaboration of leaders in Waseca and Steele counties seeking to share information across agencies, and improve the delivery of services through enhanced networking and understanding,” Steele County Judge Karen Duncan said.

A cohort of people from the community work together to make this conference happen.

The conference was held in Waseca one day and Owatonna the next day, that way it could reach more people. Throughout the day in Waseca there were numerous speakers with some being interactive for the attendees.

This conference was open to the public to sign up for and there were attendees of all professions. School district members, social workers, members of the police department and sheriff’s department along with prison workers and many others were able to attend Promoting Peace.

“I’m a social worker and I work with developmentally disabled and that’s why I came here,” Jessica Tressler said.

The day began at 8 a.m. for attendees to network and get breakfast before settling in for the day of education.

“Attendees have consistently provided feedback that the education has been directly applicable to and useful in both professional and personal lives, and that the opportunity for cross-discipline networking is very beneficial,” Duncan said of why they continue to plan Promoting Peace. “As long as we still have more to learn, and as long as we have such wonderful volunteers working on the planning and execution of the conference, we plan to continue as we do see a positive connection between the learning/networking and better outcomes/enhanced safety within our communities”

Waseca County Judge Carol Hanks introduced the first presenter of the 2019 Promoting Peace conference, Kate Swanson, Steele County Clinical Director.

Swanson presented on the Impact of Trauma, Attachment and Relationships on Student Behavior.

This presentation focused on attachment, trauma, relationship-based counseling and looking differently at these behaviors using lenses.

“I like the idea of Promoting Peace and figuring out ways to help individuals that have mental illnesses,” Tracey Curry said. “ If we can come together as a community and help them, crime trauma will be reduced. The way I see it, when I say community, I am community as in what is my responsibility to the community.”

Another presentation was about, Hard Conversations, with Waseca County Attorney Rachel Cornelius introducing the speakers Mary Harders and Angela Kroening Johnson.

They numbered everyone at the conference off to split them into random groups for the interactive part of the presentation. The purpose of this was to put people together who have different approaches, based on their jobs, to handling mental health situations and how they each deal with situations differently.

One of the discussion topics for tables was discussing barriers, be them personal, work barriers or other peoples.

During this conversation groups were able to learn how they each approach mental health due to their personal background or how their job has shaped them to react.

“Through the information and exercises, we hope that attendees came away with a better understanding of what resources are available, and which agencies handle what aspects related to mental health response, and that through this knowledge and understanding attendees will be more likely to intervene where there are concerns over someone’s mental health before it becomes a full blown crisis,” Duncan said. “We also hope that people got some techniques to de-escalate situations and feel better equipped to respond to mental health concerns. Finally, we hope that certain myths associated with mental illness were debunked, and that people now understand that mental illness is more prevalent than brown eyes.”

Reach Reporter Bailey Grubish at 507-837-5451 or follow her on Twitter @wcnbailey. ©Copyright 2019 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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