Mental Health: Collaborations for Recovery

Sunday, February 26th, 1pm - 2:30pm

First Unitarian Universalist Church - Great Hall

1000 Blanton Ave  Richmond, VA 23211

Reserve your free seat(s) here

Mental health is crucial for everyone, and there are many factors that affect it. Some factors are within our control. Some are not. And many are a mix of the two. There’s also a range of approaches when it comes to addressing mental health, whether we’re talking about depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, addiction and substance abuse, or the risk of suicide.

Making a diagnosis can be crucial for giving wise counsel about prognosis and treatment.  But slapping a label on someone can have negative repercussions as well.

Medical experience is important. But lived experience can also be vital.

Some see religious faith as part of the answer. Some see it as part of the problem.

Please join us for what promises to be an informative, heartfelt conversation between Calendria Jones, David Rockwell, Candace Gorham, and Dr. Andy Thomson as they discuss their perspectives from both personal and professional standpoints on these matters, which should concern us all.


Calendria (CC) Shannel Jones

Calendria Jones is a native of Staten Island, New York. She is married to Theotis Jones Jr and a mother of five. She is a survivor of sexual abuse, and was diagnosed with bipolar in 1996. With her faith in God and perseverance, she recovered from the daily horrors that individuals with severe mental illness endure.

Calendria is a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist at Richmond Behavioral Health Authority in Richmond, Virginia. Calendria is a Pioneer and trailblazer of the mental health peer movement. She facilitates and coordinates five successful mental health awareness curriculums, as she assists others along a similar journey. She is a motivational speaker and owner and founder of Living Proof Outreach. God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind 2 Timothy 1:7.


David Rockwell

David Rockwell is a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist with Henrico Area Mental Health and Developmental Services, in Glen Allen, Virginia, where he has worked for ten years.  David works with the Emergency Services Team and at the Henrico County Crisis Receiving Center; where he supports persons with lived mental health experience and their families by providing empathy, mental health recovery education, and community resource education.  David is a member of the STAR (Services To Aid Recovery) Team, which is a proactive, multi-disciplinary, mobile response to citizens needing mental health intervention.  He is a Henrico Crisis Intervention Team Instructor, a certified WRAP Facilitator, and an agency Mental Health First Aid Trainer. He continues to be a speaker at local, state, and national mental health conferences and workshops

A graduate of Campbell University, David pursued additional Masters’ education with Pastoral Care and Counseling.  David is also a 2007 graduate of the Virginia Human Services Training Program, which prepared him for work in the Peer Specialist field.  David has spent almost 30 years in the Human services field with faith-based, non-profit, private, and government organizations.  His passion is to empower other mental health peers toward recovery and wellness, and to educate all citizens about the power of mental health recovery.

Not one to waste words, David noted (in relation to the speed at which certain program elements were adopted): “When the apocalypse occurs, I want to be in Virginia, because it will happen ten years later”


Candace Gorham

Candace received her Bachelor’s degree in Secondary English Education from North Carolina Central University. She received her Master’s degree in mental health counseling from Wake Forest University. Candace’s religious background is varied, including Jehovah's Witnesses and Methodist. At 18, she joined a very charismatic ministry during which time she was ordained as an evangelist, prophetess, and elderess. Becoming involved in and leading extremist activities such as casting out demons, fasting for weeks at a time and faith healing, Candace was a believer’s believer. She worked hard to be the minister, wife, and mother that she believed god had planned her to be. When real world problems were overwhelming her, she tried even harder to win god’s approval and blessing. Suffering with major depression to the point of being suicidal and facing severe financial hardships, Candace thought that she must have been doing something wrong. She dove into studying the Bible more than ever before. She became disillusioned with the contradictions and blatant errancy she found. Mounting questions regarding the similarities between Jesus and other god legends before him, the nature of god, and concepts of hell and evil were just a few of the issues that caused her to eventually decide that she could no longer believe in a deity. From a place of empathy and compassion, Candace decided to start the Ebony Exodus Project which aims to highlight the harmful effects of religion on all believers, but especially for black women. In addition to ongoing work as a counselor, Candace is a member of The Clergy Project and the Secular Therapist Project.


Andy Thomson, M.D.

Anderson Thomson, Jr., M.D.(Andy) is a psychiatrist in private practice in Charlottesville, Virginia and a staff psychiatrist both at Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Virginia Student Health Services and the Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy. His private practice is oriented toward individual psychotherapy, forensic psychiatry, and medication consultation, and his current research interest is in the area of evolutionary psychology and using its principles to understand depression, resilience, suicide, suicide terrorism, and religious belief.

Dr. Thomson co-authored Facing Bipolar: The Young Adult’s Guide to Dealing with Bipolar Disorder with Russ Federman and Why We Believe In God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith with Clare Aukofer. Since 2008, he has had the privilege of serving as a trustee for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. For further information or copies of his work go to