By Chris Haskins
Living Hope Church of Dixon – located at 410 Gateway Drive – is hosting the 2019 Awareness Conference: Mental Health and Suicide, on Saturday, September 21st, 2019 from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. Cost of entry is only $10 per person and will include breakfast and lunch. Tickets can be purchased at www.awarenessconference.com/tickets.
The Awareness Conference aims to bring locals together to shed light on issues of mental health that are affecting nearly every person in our community. The event, sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and City of Dixon and in Partnership with Dixon Police Department, Solano County and other countywide agencies, is a non-religious event that welcomes people of all backgrounds and faiths who wish to be part of a larger conversation that can help find solutions to end the stigma of mental illness.
The conference will showcase speakers and presenters consisting of mental health professionals, community groups, survivors who live to tell their stories and their loved ones. Dixon, a community of roughly 20,000 residents, is no stranger to the detriments of mental health stigma. A long-time Dixon resident, who chose to remain anonymous, shared her personal story struggling with mental illness:
“My grandmother and mother were both Bi-Polar. When I was 14 years old, I was thrown on anti-depressants, dropped out of high school and started using drugs. Throughout those years there were many times I had suicidal thoughts because I didn’t understand my mental illness and I was too scared to talk about it.”
She added that finally finding support groups is what helped her receive the proper care and treatment that eventually allowed her to break free of drug addiction and work with doctors that could name her illness.
“Finding an outlet truly saved my life. I don’t know if I would be here today if I continued to keep my disease bottled up.”
Dixon felt the heartbreaking impact of five suicides just last year in 2018. During a six month span from October, 2018 to April, 2019, Dixon Police Department reported 38 calls for suicide threats, 15 calls for suicide attempts, and 16 calls for 5150, referring to the temporary, involuntary psychiatric commitment of individuals who present a danger to themselves or others due to signs of mental illness. That roughly equates to one call every 2 and one-half days, a number that is truly staggering for any small community.
Dixon Unified School District is another key partner on this event and has been extremely focused on utilizing resources to combat rising mental health concerns among parents and community members regarding our children. Adriane Laughter, Coordinator of Pupil Services for Dixon Unified, who works closely with Dixon’s special education students, had these positive words to say about the upcoming event:
“Dixon Unified School District is excited to participate in the Awareness Conference and share about the services and resources we can provide for our students. As a district, we are working to break down the stigma and misconceptions about mental illness. Over the past two years we have begun to provide staff professional development around students’ social emotional learning and how to respond to their unique needs, as well as increase the level of services we can provide for our students.”
The timing of this event is unequivocally tied to rising trends worldwide in both mental health issues and suicide, especially among children and young adults. A study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that between 2009 and 2017, rates of depression spiked roughly 50% between children and young adults between the ages of 12 and 21.
Suicide rates have also been skyrocketing. In 2017 alone, 6,241 children and young adults between the ages of 15 and 24 took their own lives in the US – a record setting number since the government began collecting relevant statistics in 1960, according to a 2019 report by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention. Many recent studies also suggest a repeating trend of multiple variables that are contributing to these increases, including rising levels of social media use, depression, anxiety and drug addiction.
The conference will welcome Dr. Caroline Leaf as their keynote speaker. Leaf, a communication pathologist and cognitive neuroscientist, has reached millions worldwide through her teachings at conferences and has also penned many successful books and articles that focus on ways to achieve mental well-being through power of the mind and ways to change the brain. The lineup of speakers will be delivering very intimate stories of their personal experiences of being affected by mental illness or losing loved ones to suicide.
Ultimately, this is a very serious issue that is not going away, and the more dialogue that is created, the more likely communities can come together to find solutions. Mental illness does not discriminate based on race, creed, social class or political views, which is why it is essential to all to be involved and actively be part of the solution.
Awareness Conference Coordinator Phil Lockwood states, `The awareness conference is not only striving to raise awareness on these subjects but is creating an ongoing platform for education and help for those coming alongside people with mental illness and for those suffering from mental illness.”
For further information, please contact (707) 693-1512.