The Edmond Sun

Local News

February 25, 2013

Edmond church sponsors mental health panel

EDMOND — An Edmond church will present “Ask the Experts,” an event that will feature a question-and-answer session with a panel of mental health professionals.

The event — “Ask the Experts: Conversations Concerning the Mental and Emotional Problems Facing Our Children and Youth” — will be from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday at Southern Hills Christian Church, 3207 S. Boulevard.

Gary Byrkit, senior minister at Southern Hills, said society has changed much since today’s adults were children, and church staff members have come to know that families are under tremendous pressure.

“The world has changed so much,” Byrkit said. “Technology has become a whole new dynamic in kids’ lives.”

Kim Willbanks, Southern Hills’ director of youth ministries, said she is a mother and parents were coming to staff members with questions about related issues. The church has several counselors among its members and the staff thought the event would be a good way to help, Willbanks said.

Jackie Shaw, executive director of Edmond Family Counseling, 1251 N. Broadway, said Edmond is a community with a reputation of being affluent, but in reality the city has layers like most others. Children and youth come from families with abundant financial resources, from families with much fewer resources and from families in the middle, Shaw said.

Depending on family resources, children face issues related to dating, friendships, self-image, substance abuse, depression and anxiety, Shaw said. Other issues facing local youth include a reliance on electronic devices and social media, she said.

Chris Sperry, executive director of the HOPE Center of Edmond, said the agency often sees the pressure and effects of economic stress on families living in Edmond.

Moderator of the event will be Cheryl Blalock Aspy. Aspy has more than 26 years experience in academic family medicine and is a professor in the department of Family and Preventive Medicine in the College of Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

For the past 10 years, Aspy has been a co-investigator on a study of 1,117 youth and their parents on the impact of youth assets on youth risk behaviors. Her research interests include practice-based research and practice facilitation, youth assets and risk behaviors, teen pregnancy prevention and obesity management.

Other panelists will be:

• Erin Bickle, an at-risk counselor and the student assistance counselor at Santa Fe High School, who is on the School Committee for the Oklahoma Outreach Foundation. Bickle is the liaison for the Edmond Public Schools alternative programs Boulevard Academy, Project SOAR and Project HOPE at Francis Tuttle. She has crisis and counseling training in ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) and QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer) and uses these intervention models regularly when working with students. She also presents the S.O.S. (Signs of Suicide) program to high school students and makes referrals for those students who need immediate attention.

• Art Christie, coordinator for substance abuse studies in the Sociology Department of the University of Central Oklahoma. Topics he teaches include various issues related to substance abuse, dual diagnosis and counseling skills. He has been called upon to provide expertise and leadership in many churches’ wellness programs for parents and families.

• Robyn Cowperthwaite, MD, has experience at the University of Oklahoma Department of Psychiatry (Child Psychiatry Fellowship) and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Cowperthwaite provides evaluation and comprehensive psychiatric services for children and adolescents with multiple issues.

• Elizabeth Hellwege, who currently works for NorthCare Logan County Community Mental Health. Hellwege’s experience includes working with adolescent males at Varangon Academy. She has worked in in-patient facilities for adults and adolescents.

• Robert Rankin, who has worked with children, adolescents, adults and families in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Rankin has worked with a broad spectrum of concerns that include but are not limited to: Anxiety, mood disorders, trauma, adjustment, relationship difficulties, grief/loss, stress, oppositional/conduct disorders, autism spectrum disorders and parenting. He has experience utilizing a variety of therapeutic approaches and interventions based on the needs/goals of the individuals and families.

• Jennifer Rankin, who has experience working with children, adolescents, adults, families and couples. Her training include assessment, diagnosis, treatment of inappropriate sexual behaviors, divorce, grief and loss, depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, behavioral problems, anxiety disorders, attachment issues, personality disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. She has additional training in treating trauma-based disorders.

FOR MORE information about the event, call the Southern Hills Christian Church office at 341-0766 or visit

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