3rd annual Embrace Your Disability Conference to focus on mental health

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The Embrace Your Disability Conference is this week in the Capital City.

We met the people joining forces to make this event a reality.

Youth Empowering Social Status (YESS) group is a peer support group for those ages 14 to 24 who are living with disabilities.

Their members say before this group there wasn’t really anything for them.

“Our parents were a part of a parent support group but there really was no child support group. We had the group of kids we were with when our parents were together. But there’s so many other kids that didn’t know about the support group or parents that didn’t know about the support group,” explained Jacey Enget, president of YESS.

“In Hazelton, there wasn’t a lot of things to do. And when I got up here, it changed my life,” shared Colin Wetzsteon, vice president of YESS.

The board members of the group say it’s about more than just making friends. For them, they’re working to raise awareness and one of their goals is to expand beyond Bismarck.

“I would like to see this group in every state or a group like this in every state so hopefully we could reach more people across the state of North Dakota where they look at it and say, ‘Hey, I could do this where I live,'” said Enget.

“If I’m not with my family, I’m with these people,” said Wetzsteon.

It’s this group along with the Dakota Center for Independent Living (DCIL) that’s responsible for the third annual Embrace Your Disability Conference.

One of the main topics this year is mental health, because of the effects of the pandemic.

“Everybody’s been affected mentally, whether it’s losing a loved one or being isolated, having depression because they’re not able to be with other people. So we decided that would reach the broadest audience to have somebody come in and speak to us on mental health,” said Vicki L. Laraway, systems community advocate for DCIL.

This year’s event people could either attend in person or via Zoom.

They say already 40 people are planning to join virtually from across the state.

One of the keynote speakers is Ms. Wheelchair America 2013 Mariah Kilbourne.

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