2018 Symposium Speaker Bios

John Halligan
Founder, Ryan's Story Presentation LTD 

On October 7th, 2003, Mr. Halligan lost his 13-year- old son, Ryan, to suicide.  It was revealed in greater detail, after Ryan’s death, that he was ridiculed and humiliated by his  peers  at  his  middle  school  in Vermont and online.  Just a few months after Ryan’s death, Mr. Halligan spearheaded the Vermont Bullying Prevention law in 2004, in honor of his son Ryan.   He also led the passing of a law in 2006 which requires education about suicide prevention in public schools.

Mr. Halligan has made it his life’s work to spread the need for awareness and prevention of  bullying, cyberbullying, and teen suicide- not only in the US, but in Canada and Latin America.  He and his wife, Kelly, have   appeared   on   several   national   TV programs, including Oprah, Primetime with Diane Sawyer, and PBS Frontline.  Mr. Halligan has spoken to over 1800 schools spreading his message of hope and kindness.  He is here to share Ryan’s Story with us today.




James Wright, LCPC, Public Health Advisor
Suicide Prevention Branch
Center for Mental Health Services (SAMHSA)

James Wright, LCPC, is a Public Health Advisor in the Suicide Prevention Branch, Center for Mental Health Services, at SAMHSA.  Mr. Wright serves as the Government Project Officer for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Suicide Prevention Resource Center, National Strategy for Suicide Prevention and Crisis Center Follow Up grants.  Mr. Wright also represents the Center for Mental Health Services in Health Information Technology, to include advances in mobile behavioral health and mobile application development. He represented SAMHSA on the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention Task Force for Crisis Services and on the Juvenile Justice Task Force. He is also a Government Project Officer for states receiving Garrett Lee Smith youth suicide prevention grant funds to provide suicide prevention screening, training, awareness and outreach across the U.S. Mr. Wright represents SAMHSA on several federal committees, some of which include the Editorial Board for, the Federal Partners on Bullying Prevention, the Veterans Administration Clinical Advisory Board and the Federal Interagency Committee on Traumatic Brain Injury.




Thomas Delaney, PhD
Assistant Professor (Pediatrics)

Vermont Child Health Improvement Program
The Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont

Dr. Tom Delaney is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine. He earned MA and PhD degrees in psychology from the University of Denver, where he studied neuro-psychological functioning in children and youth. Since 2009, he has conducted a variety of program evaluations of mental health, suicide prevention and substance abuse treatment projects. His interests in suicide prevention include suicide postvention, assessing the effectiveness of different prevention training approaches, and evaluating the Zero Suicide approach to systems change. Tom is an instructor in the medical and graduate public health education programs at UVM, where he has developed and taught courses on research methods and statistical analysis.





JoEllen Tarallo, EdD, MCHES, FASHA
Director, Vermont Suicide Prevention Center
Executive Director, Center for Health and Learning

Dr. JoEllen Tarallo is Executive Director of the Center for Health and Learning (CHL), a comprehensive health promotion organization, and Director of the VT Suicide Prevention Center (VT-SPC), a public-private partnership with Vermont Department of Mental Health and numerous other partners. ( The VT-SPC was established to guide and sustain suicide prevention efforts in Vermont and to serve as a resource for data, information, resources and collaboration. Under her leadership CHL developed the Umatter for Schools training, designated as a national Best Practice program, and the Umatter for Communities training for community professionals, Umatter YYA Mental Health Wellness Promotion and Community Action, and Umatter public information. This includes the website; an award winning youth website, aimed at promoting positive mental health and help seeking. Umatter training includes Gatekeeper training, professional and organizational protocol development, Staff and Community Awareness and instruction of the Lifelines curriculum. Dr. Tarallo is a state and nationally licensed health educator, trainer, school administrator, program developer and project manager, who works at the crossroads of education and public health, including service at the local, state, national and international levels.  She has received distinguished professional awards from the American School Health Association, VT Association for Physical, Health Education, Recreation and Dance, and Prevention Works VT.


Sarah A. Arias, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior
Alpert Medical School of Brown University
Research Psychologist, Butler Hospital, Providence, RI

Dr. Arias is an Assistant Professor (Research) in the Psychosocial Research Program at Butler Hospital, with a faculty appointment in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Her research focuses on suicide prevention and intervention. Currently, she is working on studies examining interventions for targeting suicide risk post-hospital discharge and post-jail release. Her recent research also includes using electronic medical record data to improve detection and monitoring of suicide risk.