Actor Sean Astin to keynote NICC’s ‘Destigmatizing Brain Health’ Summit

Northeast Iowa Community College will host a live, interactive virtual Brain Health Summit Tuesday, Oct. 19, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Northeast Iowa Community College will host a live, interactive virtual Brain Health Summit Tuesday, Oct. 19, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The “Destigmatizing Brain Health” Summit will feature keynote speaker Sean Astin, the MindSpring Mental Health Alliance, the Power Minds Panel and local advocates discussing the stigma of mental illness in society and its detrimental effects on those who are ill and individuals closest to them.
Astin’s keynote presentation, “Destigmatizing Brain Health Through Compassion,” will discuss his deeply personal story of the brain health struggles and stigma his mother, actress Patty Duke, encountered while raising him as a child. Astin, an actor, screenwriter, director, producer, activist and philanthropist, emphasizes the importance of building compassionate communities to destigmatize mental illness. Astin is well known for his roles in the films “Rudy,” “The Goonies,” “Lord of the Rings” and “Stranger Things 2.”
The event features a variety of additional presenters who will share their insights and information about resources and strategies with attendees.
The MindSpring Mental Health Alliance will discuss cultural bias in the US and how this impacts brain health treatment, prevention and recovery. 
Filmmaker Lance Childers and Director Caleb Gonzalez, Ph.D., will discuss their short film, “Sky: A Short Film Screening” about a young pianist and his struggles with severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
The Power Minds Panel – formed of Dubuque organizations Two by Two, University of Dubuque Social & Emotional Learning Program, Challenge to Change and Project Rooted  will share their insights into social-emotional learning practices for children, emotional intelligence, mindfulness curriculum and programming, and fresh food and health advocacy.
Debi Butler, founder of the organization Brain Health Now, is partnering with NICC on the summit and is passionate about destigmatizing mental health in communities. Butler formed the grassroots organization in 2017 after having experienced a family member’s decades-long struggle with illness.
“We are very excited to partner with Northeast Iowa Community College on the upcoming Brain Health Summit event. Our communities want and need to see a change in the stigma associated with the term ‘mental illness’ because it is detrimental to individuals who are ill, and others close to them. We want to normalize the perceptions of these conditions affecting one out of every five people in the US. Simply put, the brain is an organ and it can get sick too,” Butler said.
Brain Health Now advocates for changes in official language used to characterize brain health conditions and disorders in the state of Iowa. 
“We are currently working with our Iowa legislators on language surrounding ‘mental illness’ to reframe these conditions as ‘brain health.’ Our communities would benefit by thinking of mental illness and substance abuse as a medical issue, not a character flaw or personal weaknesses,” she said.
The Brain Health Summit event is funded through a partnership with American Rescue Funds. Tickets to the event are $29 and tuition assistance is available. For more information and to register, visit or call 844.642.2338, ext. 1399.

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