Conference on suicide, depression provides hope


You are not alone, participants told

Suicide and depression are all-too-common. Hope and help are available. The message was delivered at this year’s third annual The Conversation Has to Happen…Again held at the Olds Pomeroy on Saturday.

Keynote speaker, Kevin Hines, a 36-year-old man survived a suicide plunge off San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in 2000. He lived. Kevin has made it his life mission to share his story of profound depression, paranoia, auditory hallucinations, delusions, grief, rehabilitation and recovery.

Hines describes lethal emotional brain pain being exponentially more excruciating than the most severe physical injury – he knows such pain. Kevin crushed his spinal vertebrae and broke his ankle from the fall. It’s a miracle he’s not paralyzed.

The event is spearheaded and the brainchild of Andrea Hawiuk. She’s helped by a group of hard-working volunteers. Andrea noticed a number of suicides in the area and knew people needed help. She was right. Each year more than 200 show up to the all-day, no-charge event to hear candid, often painful stories of depression, loneliness, grief, suicide, survivor guilt, coping mechanisms, support, recovery and joy.

Olds’ Peter Premachuk shared his heart-wrenching story of anguish, anger, guilt, and the three-year fog he endured following his 48-year-old brother’s suicide in 2000. He took his life in the basement of his elderly parent’s home. Suicide scars survivors for life. Time, knowledge and understanding, however, ease the pain and offer hope, and the fog eventually lifts.

Lindsay Redleman, who has struggled with mental illness, told how she used knowledge from last year’s event to help a friend she suspected was suicidal.  Lindsay’s insight, knowledge, compassion and bag full of resource material offered at the event may have helped save a life. Lindsay talked about a dark cloud hovering over her for months and how through doctor-prescribed prescriptions, counseling and homework, she learned how to make the cloud disappear or at the least not seem so ominous.

Roy Gunderson talked about adversity, an attempt at suicide and redemption. Faith, inspiration, and working with horses saved his life.

Kathy Kemmere, who has been involved with the hospice program for years, talked about grief, accepting grief and taking enough time to experience it. It can’t be ignored, scheduled or rushed.

Speakers discussed the importance of medication, nutrition, sleep and exercise. It’s possible with love, support and understanding to find light in the darkness. You are not alone. There is help.


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Murray Elliott