January 10, 2014

Last month, in honor of the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 14, CIIS President Joseph Subbiondo and a group of CIIS faculty and staff joined San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, District Attorney George Gascón, and leading venture capitalist Ron Conway to discuss the intersection of technology and mental health. The daylong Symposium for Sandy Hook, a partnership between CIIS and Highground Hackers, brought together experts from multiple backgrounds to explore broad public solutions to the rising tide of violence facing our country.

Highground Hackers are a group of civic-minded developers, technology executives, entrepreneurs, and investors who connect engineers and developers with non-technical experts from various fields of public concern. The symposium followed on the heels of two successful hackathons geared toward building creative tools for improving mental health and reducing gun violence.

"These events have created a rare opportunity for high tech developers, San Francisco, and CIIS to meaningfully collaborate on unique projects that will contribute significantly to the safety of our community," said Joseph Subbiondo, president of CIIS. "I am confident that our partnership and the research that results from working so closely together will serve as a model for the nation."

As a school of professional psychology and a university located in the heart of San Francisco, CIIS is looking at the bigger picture of how technology can help people not just in one-on-one therapy but on a grander scale as well. By playing a key role in the hackathons and the Symposium, CIIS has established itself as a leading resource for issues relating to mental health.

"This is an opportunity to think outside of the box and explore ways we can use social media and other online tools to reach more and more people," said Phil Weglarz, professor in the Expressive Arts Therapy program. "Therapists are far outnumbered by the amount of negative influences that are on our youth today."

But there's hope, Weglarz says. Good behaviors based on healthy social and emotional learning can, in fact, be learned and achieved through practice.

The Symposium featured presentations from other leaders in the field, including Rebecca Elliott, founder of Elliott Coaching, Adam Gazzaley, founding director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center at the UC San Francisco, Jessica Berlinski, Chief Learning Officer and Co-founder of If You Can, a San Francisco and London based company dedicated to building Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) skills in youth via a game platform, and Ian Johnstone, co-founder of Gun by Gun, an organization empowering individuals to remove guns from their communities through crowdfunded gun buyback programs.  

Highlights from the Symposium:

Craig Chalquist, chair of the East-West Psychology Program, spoke about his experiences offering therapy to men with violence backgrounds and offered critical insights into the cycle of crime.

Meg Jordan, chair of the School of Professional Psychology and professor and chair of the Integrative Health Studies Program, introduced the concept of Human Flourishing and spoke about its emotional and physical benefits.

Dean of Alumni and Professor Richard Buggs profiled the mind of a perpetrator in the hopes of identifying those in need of help.

EXA Professor Denise Boston spoke about community healing; ICP Professor Mark Fromm explored possible predictors of gun violence; and Ashok Narashiman, a member of the CIIS board of trustees, gave a call out for more community collaboration.

Technologists from previous hackathon events gave demos of their applications, including two of our favorites, Health Heroes and StreetMom.

Improving mental health and reducing gun violence are complex issues that will only be solved if we work together, and we do not forget.

Related Academic Programs

East-West Psychology, Integral Counseling Psychology, Master's in Counseling Psychology, CIIS Administration, CIIS In the News, Psychology, San Francisco

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