This is my second year as a member of the American Association of Suicidology. Earlier this Spring, I happened to peruse the association’s website and discovered that the annual conference was to be held in Atlanta, only a short distance from my home! How could I pass up an opportunity to attend the conference? It would have been unthinkable not to go. So, this week, I invested the equivalent of two days throughout a three-day period into hearing presentations, attending workshops, meeting colleagues, and getting photographs.
The conference was very affordable at $150, plus receiving a free student seat to a half-day preconference workshop on Tuesday, presented by Dr. Jim Mazza and Dr. Alec Miller. I wasn’t required to fly or drive in over a long distance (although driving in the downpouring rain wasn’t very pleasant on Wednesday morning), I didn’t have to shell out big bucks for a hotel stay, and I didn’t have to pay alot of money for food. I parked at a self-serve parking lot on Spring Street, just one block away from the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, paying $4 per day for each of the three days.
Yesterday, I enjoyed eating lunch at the buffet of a nearby Chinese restaurant, paying only $8.50, including tip for my meal. One thing I did miss out on today, however, was the $10 student lunch voucher. I arrived too late, and there were none left, so I had to go without. The wonderful bagels for breakfast, however, certainly made up for the lost lunch opportunity.
I’m still extremely happy to have enjoyed the free student seat at Wednesday’s workshop, as well as to have met a huge presence in the field of counseling and psychotherapy, Dr. Marsha Linehan, the creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy! I snapped a couple of pictures of Dr. Linehan, but missed out on my chance to be photographed with her when a kind lady was unable to navigate my camera – and Dr. Linehan was in a hurry. To hear her presentation about her personal background and how it relates to her creation of DBT is incredibly inspiring!
There are so many additional, wonderful presenters that I heard, as well, including, but not limited to Dr. Thomas Joiner and Dr. Cheryl King (who both autographed my program booklet – thank you!), Dr. Matt Nock, Dr. Michael Anestis (Conference Program Chair), Dr. David Miller (Association President, with whom I did get a photo!), Kathik Dinakar, Dr. David Klonsky, Dr. Keith Hawton, Adam Horwitz, Raymond Tucker, Stephanie Pennings, Dr. Sarra Nazem, Dr. April Smith, Chris Hagan, Iris Bolton, Dr. David Mayo, Dr. Madelyn Gould, and Dr. Peter Wyman.
While I did not do much networking, there were folks who I met and spoke with, making the experience more personal and enjoyable. One particular colleague with whom I networked on each of the three days I was at the conference was Stephen. Additionally, all of the staff and volunteers of the association were extremely helpful and friendly, particularly Justin, Sarah, John, and Pollyanna.
All those employees of the Hyatt Regency with whom I spoke were also very friendly and professional, providing an excellent reflection of the hospitality provided by those at the hotel.
There was so much that I learned, and I’m so happy to have had the chance to attend this year’s 48th annual conference. I hope that I will be a more effective, compassionate, and professional support to those who have been affected in some way by suicidality, as a result of attending this conference.