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The second installment of The Avielle Foundation’s Brainstorm Experience speaker series nearly sold out the Edmond Town Hall theater February 27 as Golden Gate Bridge suicide survivor Kevin Hines took the stage.
The Brainstorm Experience series is bringing a diverse group of thought leaders, advocates, and celebrities from across society to Newtown to offer unique perspectives on the care, science, strength, and vulnerability of the brain. The Avielle Foundation was co-founded by Dr Jeremy Richman and Jennifer Hensel, the parents of Avielle Richman, who was one of the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy.
According to the foundation, “The Brainstorm Experience seeks to bring our community together in a stimulating and engaging environment in which learning, connection, and inspiration provoke imagination. These experiences will enhance understanding of the strengths and vulnerabilities of the brain.”
In September 2000, Mr Hines leapt from the Golden Gate Bridge, a method of suicide attempt that has resulted in death for most of the 2,000 people who have made that jump since the bridge was erected in 1937.
He is one of only 36 to survive the fall, and he is the only Golden Gate Bridge jump survivor who is actively spreading the message of living mentally healthy around the globe.
In the 16 years since his near-fatal suicide attempt, Mr Hines has become something of a bridge between himself and the many mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, spouses, friends, and loved ones of those who have attempted and sadly succeeded in their attempts.
“It was an instant regret,” wrote Mr Hines in an advance for the Newtown appearance. “In those seconds after I jumped, I said to myself, ‘What have I just done? I don’t want to die. God, please save me.’”
In the summer of 2013, he released his bestselling memoir titled Cracked, Not Broken, Surviving and Thriving After A Suicide Attempt.
In 2016, Mental Health America awarded Mr Hines its highest honor, The Clifford W. Beers Award, for his efforts to improve the lives of and attitudes toward people with mental illnesses.
He is currently producing a documentary titled Suicide: The Ripple Effect.
By sharing his story, Mr Hines endeavors to foster hope between life and death for people caught in the pain of living with serious mental illness, difficult life circumstances, and more.
“Our goal with the Brainstorm Experience series is to connect the community through brain health education; seeing the theater nearly full for the second time in less than a month is incredibly rewarding,” said Jeremy Richman, Avielle Foundation CEO. “Kevin and I have worked together in the past, so I understood how authentic and candid his message is. Tonight he navigated the audience through his journey, and everyone left changed for the better.”
Attendee Tim Richmond commented, “I was mesmerized by Kevin’s stories; it’s not just a story about surviving, but dozens of stories of thriving with brain illness and making a positive impact on the world.”
“Kevin was a great speaker,” echoed Newtown resident Jennifer Nelson Rogers. “He has had incredible challenges, and they keep on coming, but his message is clear: don’t ignore someone in distress, reach out and let them know you want to help.”
Suzy DeYoung, Brainstorm director, expressed gratitude to Mr Hines for sharing “a remarkable story that clearly resonated with the crowd.”
Ms DeYong said she was approached after the talk by an attendee whose teenage son struggles with Bi-Polar.
“Though her son was unable to attend, she was grateful for the opportunity to gain insight on how best to help him,” Ms DeYong said. “This is why we offer The Brainstorm Experience.”
Attendee Gina Wolfman, whose husband Scott helped arrange the engagement with Mr Hines called the speaker “a true inspiration.”
“I was moved by his story, and appreciated the opportunity to learn about the strategies he uses to get through each day,” she said. “Attending Kevin’s Brainstorm Experience program reminded me of just how important it is to reach out beyond our comfort zones to connect with those around us who might be suffering from, or struggling to overcome, mental health issues. We can make a differnce. A huge thank you to the Avielle Foundation! Keep up the good work!”
Matt Kaplan, CEO and co-founder of PeaceLove, said Mr Hines and his particular gift for storytelling has the ability to change lives and shift perceptions. “Congrats to my pal Jeremy Richman and his team for curating a beautiful and empowering event,” he said. “We need more of these community gatherings in our world now more than ever.”
Future Brainstorm Experiences are planned:
April 11: Dan Harris, ABC News correspondent, Nightline anchor, and author of 10% Happier and Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics
May 15: Rosalind Wiseman, author of New York Times bestseller Queen Bees & Wannabes, the inspiration for the movie Mean Girls
June 19: Jane Pauley, CBS News, “Living with Bipolar.”
August 24: Bessel van der Kolk, MD, trauma expert and author of The Body Keeps the Score
August 25: Newtown Yoga Fest
Several more experiences will be announced soon.
For more information, e-mail email@example.com or call 203-491-0304. Tickets are $15 for future installments of the series.
Purchase tickets at aviellefoundation.org