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Dana Elmendorf, assistant professor of art therapy at Seton Hill University is being honored by Mental Health America of Westmoreland County (MHAWC) with the organization’s Prevention Award during its Innovations awards dinner honoring community members who are leaders in mental health.

The awards banquet, being held on Thursday, May 7, recognizes leaders and visionaries throughout the region in the mental health fields of Prevention; Recovery and Education; Media Excellence and Mental Health Advocacy.

Elmendorf is being recognized for her work with Seton Hill University art therapy students in producing a video about mental health awareness. The video, “UnMasking Mental Health,” was honored in December with the Generation Next Award at the Fourth Annual SWPA Media & Mental Health Awards, sponsored by the Entertainment Industries Council.

Mental Health America of Westmoreland County is using the video in its efforts to remove the stigma from mental health issues.

“Dana’s commitment to partnering with community organizations allows her students to move beyond the classroom and into roles that allow them to help be a part of the solution to the mental health issues our community is facing,” said Mary C. Finger, Ed.D. Seton Hill President. “The award from Mental Health America of Westmoreland County is a testament to Dana’s work in helping her students break down the stigma of mental illness, foster healing and prevent the problems many of our neighbors are facing from happening.”

"Can talking about oppression heal depression? I like to think that when prevention work addresses the ways people in our community experience inequality or stigma, and we work to counteract that, we will be able to foster health and wellness in a more effective way,” Elmendorf said. “Receiving the Prevention Award from MHA Westmoreland is an honor that connects to the heart of my work.”

Elmendorf, a board certified art therapist and licensed professional counselor came to Seton Hill seven years ago after several decades working in a variety of community and mental health care settings in the Pittsburgh region. During that time, she lived and worked for over a year in Thailand in order to experience and learn from another culture.

A common thread that has run through all of her work is a deep appreciation for what others have to teach her and the role of creativity and the arts in fostering wellness in our lives. A key feature of her teaching is the ways the process of artmaking supports the development of resilience and self-understanding. An additional area of interest and continual exploration is the intersection of the arts with social justice. Because she finds contributing to and learning from a community important, Dana is also a board member for a variety of professional and advocacy organizations.