The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Collier County’s annual Hope Shines luncheon was held on December 5, 2014. Event chairs, Lindy and Lindsey Thomas report that “The Magic is You!” themed event, featuring a strong message of hope, was held at a private club in Naples. They noted, with 400 people attending, “It truly was magical bringing so many people together to support the vital work provided by NAMI to the children and families in Collier County.”

Keynote speaker Kevin Hines captivated the group with his moving story about finding brighter days after his suicide attempt in 2000. His story is a dramatic one. At 19 years old, Hines tried to die by jumping off San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, a fall of 746 feet. Today, he is one of just 34 people who have lived to talk about it. The author of “Cracked … Not Broken, Surviving & Thriving After a Suicide Attempt,” Hines concentrates on living mentally well and inspiring others with his hope-filled message. In his speech, he recalled as he rode the bus to the Golden Gate Bridge, determined to jump, he cried and no one on the bus reacted. He believes that if just one person had reached out to him with a kind word or a show of concern, he may not have jumped. Hines stressed the importance to reach out to those in pain with a simple “Are you okay?” or “Can I Help you?”

The message of hope and help continued throughout the luncheon with several awards and recognitions. NAMI of Collier County received the Connect 4 Mental Health Community Innovation Award for Collier H.U.G.S, (Health Under Guided Systems) which is a program developed and underwritten by NCEF (Naples Children & Education Foundation). H.U.G.S. is a collaborative inter-agency effort that was created to respond to the complex needs of children at risk or with behavioral health problems in Collier County. NAMI of Collier County has helped more than 3,000 children in our community through this critical screening and early intervention program.

Officers Mark Underhill and Scott Stamets of the Naples Police Department, and Deputy Scott Palmateer and Cpl. Shannon Lee of Collier County Sheriff’s Office, were recognized as the 2014 Crisis Intervention Team Officers of the year. The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training provides education to law enforcement officers throughout Collier County in de-escalating and preventing crises and improving the outcomes of police interactions with people with a mental illness. In both cases, the officers were able to prevent tragic endings to potentially dangerous situations and saved lives.

NAMI of Collier County’s Certified Peer Recovery specialist, Ron Stanford, received the AMADA Hope Award for his continued work to provide support for people who have lost hope. As the NAMI liaison at the Crisis Stabilization Unit in the David Lawrence Center, Stanford is able to reach those suffering from mental illness in a critical time, while spreading the mission of NAMI through crucial support. Stanford is recognized for his compassionate, thoughtful and gentle manner, which has provided a beacon of hope and recovery for so many in need.

Major sponsors of the event included Arthrex, Amada Senior Care, and Remington Outdoor Company. Other sponsors who helped underwrite the cost were Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, IBERIABANK, Naples Pilot Club, PBS Contractors, Signatures, Estero United Methodist Church, George Drobinski, Park Royal Hospital, Northern Trust, Twelve Oaks Treatment Center, North Naples United Methodist Church, Preferred Travel of Naples and Driftwood Garden Center.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Collier County assists thousands of residents each year who deal with severe and persistent mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, and more. Since 1986, NAMI has been providing support and resources, information, system navigation, and support groups at no cost to individuals or their families. NAMI also provides educational programs and operates the Sarah Ann Drop-In Center,which offers a safe haven for those who need a place to go for socialization, support, and to learn skills and ways to improve their mental health.