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Cover of the spring 2003 SFSU magazine. Geography Professor Max Kirkeberg and students tour of San Francisco's Western Addition.

 

SFSU Magazine Online, Spring/Summer 2003, Volume 3, Number 2.
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Campus BeatA head shot of mental health advocate Dede Ranahan looking into the distance with a serious expression on her face.

 

Out of the Shadows
Mental health symposium focuses on awareness and understanding

Dede Ranahan never planned on a career in mental health advocacy until one life-changing day 10 years ago.

At 9 a.m. she was in her kitchen preparing for a holiday celebration. At 9 p.m. she was asking the highway patrol to be on the lookout for her 22-year old son who was experiencing an acute, psychotic episode.

"If I knew then what I know now about mental disabilities, I may have been able to get help before we faced a crisis situation," said Ranahan, director of the College of Extended Learning's Mental Health Education and Workforce Development Initiative.

Ranahan was the driving force behind the March symposium, "Promoting Mental Health in Our Schools," sponsored by SFSU and KQED TV. More than 500 educators, counselors and parents gathered at the South San Francisco Conference Center to learn how to better recognize and manage mental illness.

"We're seeing a lot of attention deficit disorder and anxiety among our students," said attendee Amy Vandagriff, a resource teacher at Foothill High School in Pleasanton. "It's great to be able to help
students in high school and also prepare them for college life."

Attendee Nicole Cortichiato, a youth-outreach coordinator at Belmont's Center for Independence for the Disabled, said the symposium was an important reminder to "teach our children how to approach people with [mental health] disabilities without fear, and to put the person before the disability."

The symposium was made possible by support from such organizations as The California Endowment, the Zellerbach Family Fund, and The California Wellness Foundation.

-- Adrianne Bee

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