Beyond Stigma: Advancing Mental Health Awareness in the Low German Community

Join fellow service providers in Leamington for a professional development opportunity that will shed light on personal stories of resilience and hope as we address aspects of mental health within the Low German community.

Thursday, May 09
8:30AM - 4:00PM EDT

Leamington United Mennonite Church
78 Oak St. E.
Leamington ON N8H 2C6

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A group of people discussing around several round tables in a large room. A group of people discussing around several round tables in a large room.

Low German Conference

Engaging discussions. Presentations by experts. Networking with colleagues. The next Low German Conference in Leamington will help you gain insights into how you can begin to address mental health issues within the Low German-speaking Mennonite community.

Prior attendance at the March 1 introductory webinar "Who are the Low German-speaking Mennonites?" or existing knowledge about this population is strongly recommended before attending this conference.

Cost: $110. Lunch is included.

Registration closes Thursday, May 2nd.

Schedule and speakers

A Low German Mennonite History

Titus Guenther will draw from experience in theology and missions to give an overview of the history of Low German Mennonites.

On Empathy and Rapport with the Low German community

Building on a cultural competency framework, Amanda Sawatzky and Peter Dyck will explore the essentials in rapport building and the necessity of empathy and cultural humility when working with the Low German community.

Navigating Mental Health with the Mennonite Community

Katharine Enns will give an overview of some of the challenges the Low German-speaking Mennonites in our communities often experience as it relates to their mental health and well-being. She will also look at this topic from a cultural perspective, and how we can be sensitive to their beliefs and values while at the same time helping them access the supports they need.

Cultural Nuances and Counselling

Susanne Froese will draw from her experience in private practice in counselling and psychotherapy to discuss the cultural nuances to consider when working with the Low German-speaking Mennonites.

8:30am. - Registration
9:00am - Welcome and Housekeeping
9:15am  - A Low German Mennonite History with Titus Guenther
10:15am - Break
10:30am - On Empathy and Rapport with the Low German Community with Amanda Sawatzky and Peter Dyck

11:45am - Lunch

1:15pm - Cultural Nuances and Counselling with Susanne Froese
2:00pm - Navigating Mental Health with the Mennonite Community with Katharine Enns
2:45pm - Break 
3:00pm - Panel Discussion with care providers: Katharine Enns, Peter Dyck, and Susanne Froese (facilitated by Amanda Sawatzky)
3:45pm - Closing remarks

Titus Guenther and his wife Karen are no strangers to moving and relocating themselves. Now retired from his position as professor of theology and missions at Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg, Titus has been involved in a number of prior teaching assignments to Lesotho, Africa, and Chile, South America with Mennonite Mission Boards. After having spent 27 years (1994-2021) living in Winnipeg, Titus and Karen call Windsor, Ontario home. The Guenthers are members of Windsor Mennonite Fellowship.

Amanda Sawatzky grew up in a Low German Mennonite family and lived both in Canada and Mexico during her childhood. She has educational childhood experiences that are transnational and both faith-based, and public system-based. Amanda most recently obtained her Master of Social work in 2021. Amanda has worked in the child welfare sector since 2012; most of that work includes serving newcomers to Canada, both Low German Mennonites and those from Latin American backgrounds. Amanda also sits on the Board of Directors at Erie Shores Health Care.

Peter Dyck grew up in a Low German Mennonite family in southwestern Ontario. He completed his entire education experience in Ontario within various Mennonite faith-based schools and the public school system. Returning as a mature student, Peter successfully achieved an Honours Bachelor of Social Work degree and subsequently a Master of Social Work in 2023. Peter has worked in the child welfare sector for the past five years and additionally has the privilege of journeying alongside a wide variety of individuals by providing mental health counselling in private practice.

Susanne Froese grew up in a Low German Mennonite family in Leamington. She attained her BSW and MSW and has worked in the social work field for over 16 years. Her practicums and professional career include experience in research, child protection, community agencies, the public school system, children and youth mental health agencies, and currently in private practice providing counselling and psychotherapy to teens and adults. She previously worked extensively with LGM youth and families for 11 years supporting and re-engaging youth in high school opportunities and alternative options. She now provides general and faith-based therapy with some of her caseload being LGM.

Katharine Enns has worked in Mental Health in some capacity for 23 years, 20 of which have been at CMHA Thames Valley Addictions and Mental Health Services. Katharine has a Masters Degree in the Mental Health field from Fresno Pacific University in California. Katharine has worked with individuals from different cultural backgrounds but her work is primarily with the Low German-speaking population. Her work includes providing in-person support helping people work through challenging life situations, advocacy, translation in Low German and English and collaborating with other service providers. Katharine was born in Mexico into a Low German-speaking Mennonite family. She spent her childhood and adolescence in both Mexico and Canada. Canada has been Katharine’s permanent home since 1987 and she currently resides in Aylmer.

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