VAI’s Mental Health Symposium in Second Life

Sojourner Auditorium, Virtual Ability Island, Second Life

The 2023 Virtual Ability Inc., (VAI) Mental Health Symposium on Friday, May 12th, 2023, a little ahead of the internationally supported Mental Health Awareness Week (May 15th through 21st, inclusive). As such, it forms a part of a wide range of physical world and virtual world events framed around Mental Health Awareness Month, which has been throughout May observed in the United States since 1949.

2023 marks the 12th such symposium hosted by Virtual Ability Inc., and has the theme Self-Identity and Mental Health. As with previous years, the symposium will feature a broad cross-section of speakers, who this year will be talking on a range of  identities, from “mad” to autistic, from military to caregiver.

The Symposium will take place in the virtual world of Second Life, at the Sojourner Auditorium on Virtual Ability Island. Those from outside of Second Life wishing to attend can do so by creating a free Second Life account through Virtual Ability’s Sign-Up Portal, and then entering Second Life via Virtual Ability’s New Resident Orientation Course.

The Symposium schedule – click to view

The schedule of speakers for the event can be found on the Virtual Ability Inc., website, and presentations commence at 07:00 SLT (US PDT) on the morning of Friday, May 12th, and run through to the concluding presentation, which starts at 12:00 noon, with each session lasting approximately one hour. For ease of reference, a brief summary of the presentations is provided below – but do please check the complete schedule via the link above for the fullest information on speakers and talks.

  • 07:00 SLT: Dr. Joanna Fox, Associate Professor in Mental Health Recovery at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, England – “Mental Ill-health and the Recovery Process”.
  • 08:00 SLT: Dr. Yasuhiro Kotera, Associate Professor in Mental Health at the University of Nottingham, England – “Cultures and how we feel well: Making a global map of mental health personal recovery”.
  • 09:00 SLT: Dr. Kate Cooper, clinical psychologist and researcher, University of Bath, England – “Autism social identity and well-being”.
  • 10:00 SLT: Dr. Fred Berlin, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, USA – “Transgender Persons (Gender Dysphoria)”.
  • 11:00 SLT: Dr. Bonnie Vest, Research Associate Professor in the Primary Care Research Institute, Department of Family Medicine, University at Buffalo, USA and Dr. Rachel Hoopsick, Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, USA – “Military Identity and Service Expectations among Reservists: Associations with Mental Health and Substance Use”.
  • 12:00 SLT: Wonkyung Jung, PhD, RN, Postdoctoral Fellow in the RESILIENCE Centre, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, Baltimore, USA – “Social Integration and Resilience”.
Sojourner Auditorium, Virtual Ability Island, Second Life

About Virtual Ability

Virtual Ability, Inc. is a non-profit corporation, chartered in the state of Colorado, USA.  It is a non-profit tax exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code. This means that for US citizens, contributions made are deductible as a charitable donation for federal income tax purposes.

Virtual Ability hosts this annual Symposium to share information about mental health and mental disabilities with the general population. Within its cross-disability community, VAI has members who deal with a variety of mental health issues. So, not only is this an opportunity for VAI community members to learn more about topics related to mental health from experts they probably would not have a chance to meet otherwise, it allows the general public to attend a professional conference at no cost.

With thanks to Gentle Heron for the information.

Related links

80 Days in the Old West in Second Life

*80 Days* Wind River, May 2023 – click any image for full size

For the April / May / June build at *80 Days*, Camila Runo offers people the opportunity to roam a small corner of America’s frontier Old West, with a visit to Wind River, a small settlement in the middle of the mid-West, where cattle are brought it for possible herding along the trails to wherever the nearest railhead might be, and from there by rail to feed the towns and cities of either coast.

Get that Old West feeling at WIND RIVER! A dusty cowtown, a native village and vast plains with wildlife and epic sceneries are waiting for you. Stop by and enjoy.

– Wind River About Land description

*80 Days* Wind River, May 2023

Quite what brought this little town into being is hard to say. Evidence suggests that the location was much used by native Americans – who have an encampment close to hand -, so perhaps there’s a local aquifer that provides good drinking water, even if the “river” of the setting’s name appears to be absent (indeed, the name “Wind River” might either be the westernisation of the Native American for this broad valley running between hills and mountains and forming a corridor along which the dusty wind is prone to barrel, or is perhaps a touch of dry cowboy humour, given that self-same wind as it blow dust up and across the town).

Perhaps that aquifer, and its distance between significant points of habitation / commerce made the location a ideal point for the Pony Express to establish a waystation where horses and riders could rest-up, then when the Wells Fargo Company came through, using the old Pony Express routes as the easiest means to transport passengers from point-to-point, expanding the old waystation into a full-blown stopover. With this in mind, it’s easy to imagine some enterprising individual coming up with the idea to build a hotel to offer tired passengers with a comfortable overnight stay in a warm bed (for a small price!), the hotel in turn encouraging the rest of the town to grow up before it to become a natural focal point for the local small-hold ranchers to bring their cattle ready to join forces and drive them on to the railhead, as noted above.

*80 Days* Wind River, May 2023

Whatever the story behind its origins, it’s clear that Wind River has grown into a small, but vibrant place of commerce; beside the hotel, its Main Street boasts a bank, a large saloon, a bathhouse, and medical-come-veterinary-come-dental practice, a good sized general store, an undertaker, its own town sheriff (complete with gallows to the rear!) and a town hall / court house where some of those incarcerated in the sheriff’s cell might presumably find themselves prior to making a journey onwards to said gallows…

From the flags hanging outside the town hall, I’d guess the time period for the setting lay some time between early 1867 and the start of 1890. I say this because while the flags are short one red stripe, they do contain 38 stars, and while Colorado did not officially become the 38th state of the United States until 1876, a Stars and Stripes with 38 stars was commonly in use in the period from early 1867 through until the start of 1890, when the former Dakota Territory was formed into the states of North and South Dakota.

In support of the above, I’d also note that the town hall celebrates all of the US presidents from Washington through to Grover Cleveland, whose portrait take pride of place behind the main desk / judge’s bench, suggesting he is the current incumbent of the White House  “back east”. As he first took office as president in 1885, this tends to further confirm the setting as being set some time between then and 1889.

*80 Days* Wind River, May 2023

The landing point for the setting sits within the stables located at one end of the town’s Main Street, facing down the hotel at the far end. It’s not a long walk down to the hotel, and it is one worth taking as the buildings flanking the dry, dusty street are all furnished in keeping with the setting’s time period and offer opportunities for photography along the way. The raised sidewalks also have some nice touches, such as the planks reaching between the Sheriff’s office and the undertaker’s and town hall; it was not uncommon for the streets of frontier town to turn to quagmires after heavy rains, and so planks connected the raised sidewalks fronting building in this manner were not uncommon, helping townsfolk minimise the need to slog through sucking mud that could be ankle-deep.

For those who prefer, the stables offer a horse rezzer at the hitching post outside, allowing the rest of the landscape to be explored from the relative comfort of a saddle. A trail pointing north from here leads the way past the cow pens to where the main Wells Fargo station sits, a newly-arrived stage sitting outside. Along the way the trail passes a fork leading to one of the small homestead ranches, while the chuck wagons of another ranch crew are parked on the grassland just off the trail – presumably belonging to those who have herded the cattle now contained within the town’s pens.

*80 Days* Wind River, May 2023

This is a place where bison still roam – possibly another cause for the presence of Native Americans – and a small group can also be encountered grazing quietly, although a large bear is watching them and possibly weighing the odds of being able to pull down old of the older members of the little herd and have himself a meal.

Away to the south-west of the town, a long shoulder of rock descends from the mountains to act as a natural buffer between the the town and a small Native American encampment. With teepees arranged around a central fire pit and ponies grazing free, the encampment serves a special purpose, as explained by the information card available from the landing point:

Inside one of the teepees there’s small museum of Native American History (late 19th/early 20th century). There are several dream catchers with old photos of indigenous people. Once you touch them, you will get a notecard with information about a certain tribe. Please note that the choice of tribes displayed here doesn’t reflect any personal preference of the sim owners! It should be considered a representative cross section to raise our visitors’ awareness of the past and the today’s life situation of the Native Americans in general.
*80 Days* Wind River, May 2023

There are some small anachronisms present in the build (the saloon features a pianola for example (an instrument which wasn’t available until 1896) which can be heard playing Joplin’s The Entertainer (which wasn’t written until 1902); however, I’d say that such anachronisms actually add a further little quirk to the setting, rather than taking anything away from it. Anyway, they are more than compensated for by those little additional touches of authenticity mentioned above, and which also include a reward poster for one Dave Allen “Mysterious Dave” Mather, a man who led a very interesting (if not untypical for the period) life – eventually more than living up to his sobriquet, given so little is known about his fate!

Rich in detail and atmosphere (do make sure you have local sounds enabled when visiting!) Wind River is another superb setting from Camila and her co-owner, ZamiTio.

SLurl Details