Themes of commitment, community and recovery at Saturday suicide prevention event

Kevin Hines’ story was interspersed with comedy and tragedy alike.
Jeanne, a school nurse (left), watches over Jilly, a 10-month- old service dog in training, who was a big hit was the crowd.
Mountlake Terrace City Councilmember Steve Woodard was one of the event attendees.
A Grief Quilt, constructed from illustrations from at-risk youth at Denney Juvenile Justice Center in Everett who have experienced trauma.
One young artist’s illustrated trauma, which shows the results of a gang shooting that killed a teen.
Art from a juvenile picture shows a cat asking “Why did you involve me?”
Therapeutic art made by a participant at the Echo Glen Children’s Center.
Representatives from the Latino Educational Training Institute came to showcase their organization’s many educational programs.
Verdant’s Communications Manager Kirk Mathis greeted incoming attendees. Participants were allowed to adorn themselves with bead necklaces that would represent things such as having lost a friend or family member to suicide, supporting the cause or experience with mental health struggles.
One of several informational packets offered.
Project Girl founder Olympia Edwards listens to a young woman’s question.
Speaker Ashley McGirt-Adair reads out a raffle number after her talk.
Edmonds School District Superintendent Rebecca Miner moderated the conference.
Audience members were encouraged to ask speakers about their stories, resources and thoughts regarding various aspects of mental health.
Providence Regional Medical Center representative Mollie Sharp, one of four panelists during a time slot dedicated to discussing systemic resources for mental health services
Members of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, eagerly discussed solutions with attendees.

Over 100 people gathered to learn and share their experiences and knowledge together at “Creating Hope & Resilience: A Community Conversation on Suicide Prevention” at the Lynnwood Event Center Saturday. Verdant Health invited over a dozen community organizations and a handful of speakers with local, national and international ties. Panelists included Edmonds School District Social Worker Latisha Williams, Volunteers of America Western Washington Director of Behavioral Health Levi Van Dyke, Involuntary Treatment Supervisor Carola Schmid from Snohomish County Crisis Services and several others.

Keynote speaker Kevin Hines spoke about the events that preceded his failed suicide attempt at the Golden Gate Bridge, the regret he felt and his subsequent salvation at the fins of a sea lion that kept him afloat. Despite the grim subject, Hines kept the conversation light by cracking jokes. In his talk emphasizing the importance of interpersonal ties, he also talked about kindness toward strangers.

“Never again silence your pain,” Hines said. He said that sharing pain and grief can help lighten one’s mental load.

Psychotherapist and TEDX international speaker Ashley McGirt-Adair said that participants should “replace hope with commitment.”. Instead of simply building one’s personal resilience, McGirt-Adair asked how society could be changed to make the world a kinder and more gentle place. One thought experiment asked attendees to look around the room and think of people as delicate and sensitive. She also advocated for social and economic justice that would better support people in need.

Participants left with homework assignments like reaching out to estranged loved ones and taking action in whatever way they could.

— Story and photos by Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

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