NEWCO, a congregation of community mental health service providers and supporters, is hosting a conference this week aimed at developing a continuum of care along two paths: enhancement and well-being and crisis management and prevention. The conference will start at 8:30 a.m. Friday at the Wright Campus Center at Austin College. The conference is free to all. A continental breakfast and lunch will be served.

A statement from the organizers said the purpose of this conference is to hold a conversation regarding the mental health resources within the community and to identify the gaps of needed care. There will be two guest speakers present: Tommy Nelson, Senior Pastor of Denton Bible Church in Denton, and Eric Nadel, “The Voice of the Texas Rangers.” Nadel will speak at 1 p.m.

Both speakers will share their struggle with depression and anxiety on a personal or family level. In addition there will be community officials serving on a panel for open discussion with a moderator present.

“People don’t understand mental illness,” said Jeanna Peters, a spokesperson for the NEWCO. “And they don’t want to talk about it. Yet three out of four Texans have a family member who has experienced a mental health issue, which could include anxiety, bipolar disorder or clinical depression. Suicide is the leading cause of death among college students, but of the 254 counties in Texas, 174 don’t have a single psychiatrist or psychologist.”

The two community panels on stage at the conference will consist of law enforcement, medical providers, mental health providers, superintendent of Sherman Independent School District, clergy and the local mental health authority. These panels will be moderated and welcome questions from the audience.