SHINE Initiative

Kevin Hines with MWCC Nursing & Human Services students.

Kevin Hines, seated, with MWCC Nursing & Human Services students following his presentation.

Had someone just smiled and asked if he was okay that September 2000 afternoon in San Francisco, 19-year-old Kevin Hines would not have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. The voices in his head, caused by the brain illness of bipolar disorder prevailed, convincing him that he must die. Mid-air, he prayed he would live. Miraculously, he did.

Hines, one of 33 people to survive a jump off the 220-foot bridge and author of Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt, was the keynote speaker during the second annual Mental Health Awareness Conference, sponsored by The SHINE Initiative, Mount Wachusett Community College and Heywood Healthcare.

The half-day conference, held March 27 at the Colonial Hotel, was attended by more than 300 people, including healthcare professionals, educators and students. A panel presentation focused on the stigma associated with mental illness and its impact on seeking diagnosis and treatment; the importance of early diagnosis and treatment, and veterans’ post-war health issues. More than 150 MWCC students majoring in nursing and human services participated in the conference and a suicide prevention training session that followed.

President Daniel M. Asquino, Paul Richard, executive director of the SHINE Initiative, and Dawn Casavant, vice president of external affairs for Heywood Hospital, delivered welcoming remarks, and Human services major, Renee Chandler, shared her award-winning poetry reflecting on living with mental illness. College Counselor Melissa Manzi, MSW, LCSW, and College Health Coordinator Diane Kin, RN, BSN, HNC, led a QPR (question, persuade, refer) suicide prevention training program that focuses on how to assist someone is in distress.

Panelists included Dr. Heather Brenhouse, assistant professor of behavioral neuroscience Psychology at Northeastern University; Dr. Stephanie Rodrigues, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry’s Division of Addiction at the UMass Medical School; and Bryan Doe of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Affairs.

Approximately 57 million Americans experience a mental health disorder in any given year. Between 70 to 90 percent of these individuals have a significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with combined treatment of medication and therapy.

“Ultimately, resources and time are spent on things that are a priority. Let us make certain that mental health awareness, treatment of mental illness and the sensitivity of mental illness are everyone’s priority,” President Asquino said.

Hines’ presentation provided an inside-look at the thought process and actions, as well as the effect on his family. Born to poor, young parents who struggled with mental illnesses and substance abuse, Hines said he and his birth brother would frequently be left alone in seedy hotel rooms. Within a year, they were taken into child protective services, and bounced in and out of several foster homes. Hines’ brother died as a result of neglect and untreated health conditions, while Hines was adopted by loving and supportive parents, Pat and Debbie Hines. In adolescence, what he describes as a “brain disease” began to surface, and at 17, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This imbalance in his brain chemistry resulted in paranoia, mania, horrific hallucinations and grandiose illusions, which he attempted to mask from his family and doctors.

One of the few Golden Gate Bridge jump survivors to regain full mobility, Hines has since shared his story with over 300,000 people to raise awareness about mental illness, treatment, and suicide prevention. He has been featured in the critically acclaimed film “The Bridge,” on Larry King Live, 20/20, Anderson Cooper 360, and Good Morning America, as well as in hundreds of national and international print, radio, film, and television media outlets. A signed copy of his memoir is available at the LaChance Library.

 

Kevin Hines

International speaker, author and mental health advocate Kevin Hines, one of approximately 30 people to survive a suicide attempt at the Golden Gate Bridge, will be the keynote speaker at a Mental Health Awareness Conference on Thursday, March 27 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Colonial Hotel in Gardner.

The free conference, sponsored by the SHINE Initiative, Mount Wachusett Community College, and Heywood Hospital, will also include a panel presentation and luncheon.

Hines, author of Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt, has spoken to audiences around the world about his firsthand experience with suicidal thoughts and his eventual attempt in 2000 by jumping off of the Golden Gate Bridge. He now promotes suicide awareness internationally, speaking with student, professional and veteran affairs audiences about his battle with bi-polar disease and his ongoing crusade to live mentally well.

He has been featured in the critically acclaimed film “The Bridge,” on Larry King Live, 20/20, Anderson Cooper 360, Good Morning America, and Ireland’s famed Tonight with Vincent Browne. Hines has been featured in hundreds of radio, film, and television media outlets. His articles have appeared in the San Francisco Medical Magazine, The Santa Barbara Independent, New Voices at Bay, National Council Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Advancements in Psychiatric Treatment and other publications. He was recently honored as a Lifetime Achievement Award Winner by The National Council for Community Behavioral Health.

Panel speakers will include: Bryan Doe, Department of Veterans Affairs, Springfield Veterans Outreach; Dr. Stephanie Rodrigues, Assistant Professor Department of Psychiatry, Division of Addiction, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Dr. Heather Brenhouse, Assistant Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience Psychology Department, Northeastern University.

The program will conclude with QPR training. QPR stands for Question, Persuade and Refer – three simple steps that can help save a life by recognizing warning signs of a suicide crisis.

“Mount Wachusett Community College is proud to continue this important initiative with our community partners to raise awareness of an issue that affects countless lives and families in the U.S. and locally,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino.

Mental health problems affect more than 50 million Americans and their families, including as many as 300,000 students and young adults in Massachusetts at any given time.

Established in 2004 by Fidelity Bank, the SHINE Initiative’s mission is to recognize mental illness in children and young adults as a mainstream health issue.

“Our focus on young people is fueled by the knowledge that half of lifetime cases of serious mental illness begin by age 14,” said Paul Richard, the SHINE Initiative’s executive director. “Mount Wachusett Community College is to be commended for recognizing that mental health is an integral piece of total wellness and not to be overlooked.”

For more information about the conference and to register online, go to http://mwcc.edu/continuing/conference or contact MWCC’s Division of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development at 978-630-9525.

Active Minds founder and executive director Alison Malmon with Paul Richard, executive director of the SHINE Initiative, at the mental health conference co-sponsored by MWCC.

Mental health problems affect more than 50 million Americans and their families, including as many as 300,000 students and young adults in Massachusetts at any given time. To help raise awareness about mental health issues affecting young people, The SHINE Initiative and Mount Wachusett Community College hosted a mental health conference on Thursday, Oct. 11 at the Four Points by Sheraton in Leominster.

Approximately 300 area educators, mental health professionals and students attended the conference, which included presentations by experts in the areas of anxiety and depression awareness and treatment and suicide awareness and prevention, as well as a training session.

“Mount Wachusett Community College is proud to partner with the SHINE Initiative to raise awareness of an issue that affects countless lives and families in the U.S. and locally,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino, who welcomed the participants. “Through the support of The SHINE Initiative, we can work in collaboration with our community partners and local school districts to develop and implement a program aimed at enhancing student success at all levels of education.”

“Our mission is to be a leader in the effort to recognize mental illness in children and young adults as a mainstream health issue. This conference is a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness with the help of educators, health providers and students themselves,” said Paul Richard, executive director of the SHINE Initiative.

The focus on the mental health of young people is critical. Half of lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14; one in every five young person is affected by mental health problems at any given time; two of every three young people with mental health problems are not getting the help they need; and suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-olds.

Conference speakers include, from left, Nick Dutter of Home Base; SHINE Executive Director Paul Richard; Dr. Phoebe Moore and Dr. Barry Feldman of UMass Medical School; pictured with MWCC Vice President of Human Resources Diane Ruksnaitis, who served on the conference committee with Heather Duval and Melissa Manzi of MWCC.

Alison Malmon, founder and executive director of Active Minds, a national peer advocacy organization established at more than 340 college and university campuses including a new chapter at MWCC, was the keynote speaker. Several club members and their advisor, Professor Julie Capozzi, attended the conference.

Ms. Malmon founded the nonprofit organization Active Minds in 2003, when she was a junior at the University of Pennsylvania following the suicide of her older brother, Brian. Featured on CNN, in The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education and others, Active Minds has become the voice of young adult mental health advocacy nationwide. “The vast majority of mental illnesses start in middle school, high school and college ages. This is a time when we need to be educated,” she said.

Other speakers included Nick Dutter, a veteran of the U.S. Army and the war in Iraq who now serves as veteran outreach coordinator for Home Base Program, a partnership between Massachusetts General Hospital and the Red Sox Foundation providing clinical care and support services to veterans and their families; Dr. Barry N. Feldman, director of psychiatry services in public safety and assistant professor of psychiatry at UMass Medical School; and Dr. Phoebe S. Moore, assistant professor in the psychiatry department at UMass Medical School. In addition, Melissa Manzi, senior academic counselor at MWCC and Diane King, R.N., coordinator of Health Services at MWCC, presented a QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) training session, which taught participants how to recognize the warning sides of a suicide crisis and provide help.