- Published on Wednesday, 01 October 2014 16:28
- Written by Heather Capriola
Many of you who know me know that I have a passion for strengthening our local community. However, some may not know about my other passion-educating people about mental illness and reducing the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide. Rarely am I able to combine my two passions but on September 25th, I was able to do just that.
On September 25th, Community Counseling Center hosted a Suicide Prevention Conference at Southeast Missouri State University. This conference served to educate, enlighten, inspire, and instill hope to people who have been affected by suicide or mental illness. The conference hosted two very special keynotes speakers: Kevin Hines and Kevin Briggs. Both of these men are dynamic speakers whose lives have been affected in some way by suicide and/or mental illness. Kevin Hines attempted suicide by jumping off of the Golden Gate Bridge and has now become an internationally sought after speaker. He is passionate about reducing the stigma of mental health and suicide and educating people on the importance of living mentally well. He sits on the boards of the International Bipolar Foundation as well as the Bridge Rail Foundation. He is a two term member of the San Francisco Mental Health Board and has spoken in Congressional hearings in support of the mental health parity bill. He was also named the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner by the National Counsel for Behavioral Health and Eli Lilly. Kevin Briggs is a retired California Highway Patrolman that has been named the Guardian of Golden Gate. It has been reported that he has helped to save upwards of 200 people from jumping from the Bridge by speaking to them. Although he no longer patrols the Bridge, he now focuses his efforts on suicide prevention and education. In addition to the two keynote speakers, there were several breakout sessions that covered a wide range of topics. These sessions were presented by Community Counseling Center faculty as wells as both students and faculty of Southeast Missouri State University.
The maximum attendance of 240 people was surpassed and consisted of a mix of mental health professionals, students, law enforcement, psychiatrists, consumers of mental health services, and community members who have been affected by either mental illness or suicide. The response from the people that attended this conference was overwhelmingly positive. Several people echoed Kevin Hines’ sentiment that the movement to break the stigma of mental illness and suicide is similar to the Civil Rights movement many years ago. People who attended the conference commented on how personable, humble, and inspiring both Kevin and Kevin were. They took the time to answer questions, hear audience members’ stories, and take photos. I had the pleasure of being able to spend time with both Kevin and Kevin outside of the conference and was impressed by how genuine they both were. I also had the distinct pleasure of accompanying Kevin Hines to speak to the youth at Cottonwood, something that he volunteered to do. I can honestly say that witnessing him speak to those children and seeing the impact that made on both the children and Kevin, was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.