Joel Slack to deliver Helen Keller Lecture at Troy University

Posted: Tuesday, 23 March 2009

TROY, Ala. – Joel Slack, an international consultant and trainer in the field of mental health, will deliver the 14th annual Helen Keller Lecture on April 9 at Troy University.

The lecture, which will be held at 10 a.m. in the Claudia Crosby Theater on the Troy Campus, is designed to promote awareness of people who excel in their chosen fields despite physical and/or mental limitations. The lecture is sponsored by Troy University, the Alabama State Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, The Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education, the Alabama State Department of Education, the Alabama State Department of Rehabilitation Services and the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind.

Slack suffered a mental breakdown while in college and was institutionalized for two years due to schizophrenia. Following his recovery, he began to speak of his experience with mental illness, which led to opportunities to share his perspective with various mental health agencies.

“This year’s speaker was a typical college student with all the stresses students face when he suffered a mental breakdown,” said Dr. Candice Howard-Shaughnessy, interim chair of the University’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion and chair of the Helen Keller Lecture Committee. “Current statistics from the American Psychiatric Association state that one out of four young adults will experience an episode of depression by age 24. The American College Health Association recently reported that 60 percent of college students reported feeling things were hopeless one or more times, while 10 percent of students reported seriously considering attempting suicide at least one time. We sometimes do not discuss mental illness so this year’s speaker will educate students, faculty, staff and the Troy community on mental illness and inspire everyone as he shares his story of accomplishing both personal and professional goals in life, while experiencing a mental illness.”

Slack is the founder of Respect International, an advocacy, humanitarian and educational non-profit organization created out of the need of persons with psychiatric challenges to be treated with respect, to experience hope and to be provided with the basic necessities of life.

Slack holds a bachelor’s degree in international economics and business psychology from Allegheny College in Pennsylvania and has served on the National Advisory Councils of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Center for Mental Health Services and Boston University’s Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program. He currently serves on several boards including the Global Initiative on Psychiatry, an international human rights and mental health organization based in the Netherlands, and the Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Task Force at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta, Ga.

Slack resides in Montgomery with his wife and daughter.

Entertainment for the event will be provided by David Militello, a 10-year-old Georgia youth who was featured on NBC television’s “America’s Got Talent.” Militello was non-verbal through his first three years of life and, after a series of tests, was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a milder variant of Autistic Disorder characterized by impairments in two-sided social interaction and non-verbal communication.

Militello has performed at National Basketball Association games, the Georgia State Capitol and for numerous civic and community events. He recently performed the role of Ignorance in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” at the Edgemar Theatre in Santa Monica, Calif. and is booked in the role of Young Dexter King in the opera “King,” which will debut at the Theatrical Outfit in Atlanta, Ga. in Fall 2009.

In addition to the lecture, the University will host an art show featuring artwork created by children from Troy City and Pike County school systems from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7 in the Trojan Center on the Troy Campus. Essays composed by local school children and based on the Helen Keller quote, “I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship,” will also be on display.

Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

Laylah Amatullah Barrayn