September 23, 2020

Hemingway to Deliver Keynote At NAMI Mercer Conference

By Anne Levin

Mariel Hemingway

These days, even the most mentally fit are experiencing anxiety and depression. The ongoing pandemic, racial tensions, climate disasters, and the economy are just some of the issues that make those who normally have an upbeat outlook on life start to question their attitudes.

“Absolutely, people are struggling,” said Janet Haag, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Mercer. “I think everyone is feeling this to some extent. And it makes people more likely to relate to others who are really having a hard time.”

“Creating Mental Harmony in Times of Uncertainty” is the title of NAMI Mercer’s 12th annual Harvest of Hope Wellness Conference, being held virtually from October 4-8. Actress Mariel Hemingway, whose family has experienced seven suicides including her famous grandfather, author Ernest Hemingway, and supermodel sister, Margaux Hemingway, is the keynote speaker.

“Suicide is very prevalent in her family, and she has dedicated herself to finding ways to keep herself well,” Haag said of Hemingway. “She did a documentary, Running from Crazy, in which she talked about her own family experience, raising the question, ‘How do you change that trajectory for yourself?’ ”

In planning this year’s conference, NAMI Mercer reached out to several celebrities who have publicly addressed mental health issues. “Giving that we’re living in COVID-world, and are doing this virtually, the guest speaker doesn’t have to travel,” said Haag. “It is somewhat of a silver lining, and I say that loosely, that geography doesn’t matter. When we reached out to her [Hemingway], she agreed right away.”

Hemingway has spent the last several years speaking as a mental health and wellness advocate. In addition to her documentary, which premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, she wrote the book Finding My Balance about her yoga and meditation practices, and co-wrote Running with Nature, about the impact of mindfulness, nutrition, and the beauty of simple living, with her life partner Bobby Williams. Hemingway is also the author of Healthy Living from the Inside Out, a guide to finding a greater sense of balance and meaning through self-empowering techniques and strategies.

In her keynote speech, which is on Monday, October 5, Hemingway will discuss how she focuses her energy on fighting stigma and achieving psychological wellbeing through a combination of technology and a holistic approach to living.

The conference, which is open to anyone, begins with an interactive cooking demonstration by chef Cristina Covello. Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre will present The Flip Side: In Therapy, a 30-minute comedy created especially for NAMI Mercer.

NAMI Mercer has been hosting Harvest of Hope during National Mental Illness Awareness Week since 2009. In the past, conference participants were able to attend two workshops after the keynote. Since this year’s event is virtual over five evenings, all registrants are invited to eight workshops.

Topics include “An Update on the Medical Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders” by Dr. Susan McElroy, “Spirituality and Mental Wellness” by Dr. Sonia Waters, “Ask the Doctor” by Dr. Mark Komrad, “The Intersection of the Criminal Justice System and Individuals with Mental Health Treatment Needs” by Dr. Joel Friedman, “A Good Night’s Sleep for a Better Day’s Wake” by Dr. Matthew Carter, and “Loving Someone with Mental Health Illness” by Diane Mintz.

While these topics don’t focus specifically on the implications of the ongoing pandemic, its influence is felt. “Just talking to people, we know that stress and anxiety levels have soared,” said Haag. “So for those who are already dealing with an issue, it creates a more serious concern.”

For more information, visit or call (609) 799-8994.