SF State hosts first suicide prevention conference

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When Kevin Hines jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge 13 years ago, as he was falling toward the water, he realized he didn’t want to die.

Miraculously, he survived.

He is one of 34 people recorded to have survived jumping off the iconic bridge, and is now on a mission to raise awareness about mental disorders.

Hines will speak at SF State’s first suicide prevention conference, “We All Matter: Creating a Community of Caring,” October 18. The University’s mental health initiative team hosts the day-long event consisting of workshops and speakers that aim to raise awareness about student suicides.

“Mental illness is real and they need to be treated right away from a diagnosis point,” said Hines, who himself is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “And these people need to know that they are not alone. The people that have these struggles mentally and think they cannot talk to anyone, actually have people to talk to and will listen, and will try to help.”

The conference is a response to former Cal State University Chancellor Charles Reed’s initiative for the California State University system to develop peer-to-peer curriculum on mental health. Workshops at SF State’s conference will include information and resources for diverse entities including Chinese immigrant adults, military veterans, law enforcement, people with eating disorders, middle eastern cultures, LGBTQ, students with disabilities and even a workshop on how to help a friend.

According to Active Minds, a national organization that advocates for students with mental disorders, 1,100 students die by suicide each year, making it the second leading cause of student deaths.

“What we want to achieve is to inform people that have these thoughts that it’s okay, that life can be difficult, and people have these thoughts about suicide and survived, and that there is support,” said Yolanda Gamboa, an SF State psychologist at the Counseling and Psychological Services Center.

Courtney Stich, Active Minds at SFSU president and psychology student, said she was impressed by the multiethnic and diverse entities that will be present at the conference.

Caitlin Ryan, director of the Family Acceptance Project, a research and policy initiative that researches LGBTQ youth and their families, will be a keynote speaker at the conference. She will speak about the critical role families have in promoting well-being for LGBTQ youth, who she said are four times more likely to attempt suicide.

“We’re very appreciative of the work that Active Minds is doing on campus and that Dr. Gamboa and the suicide prevention initiative that she introduced on campus,” Ryan said.  “Many young people are ashamed of suicidal thoughts and feelings and they conceal them and not tell others. And I think this conference will really help people understand that mental health issue are extremely important and we need to talk about them. Young people need to feel safe to express their despair when they are really feeling like they can’t cope and they don’t know what to do. “

The conference is free and registrations is open until all spaces are filled.  Students can register online.

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