Author: spark

Not All Wounds Are Visible

September 25, 1991 was one of the proudest days of my life. It was the day I left active military service. It was also one of the most frigtening days of my existence. This may seem ironic coming from a United States Marine veteran who served more than 10 months in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Like many young American men and women, I’d enlisted in the military when I was still a minor at the age of seventeen. Shortly following my eighteenth birthday, I was boarding a flight to South Carolina en route to the infamous Parris Island, Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot. Needless to say, I’d possessed little in the areas of civilian life skills such as academic, vocational, social and interpersonal. Everything I’d learned in my adult life up to the point of my EAS (End of Active Service) was from the military, and in particular, from the Marine Corps. As you can guess, my adjustment to civilian life was frighteningly difficult.

As I stepped off the Greyhound, I soon began to realize that things were very different back home. The yellow ribbons that once adorned the streets near my house have long been put away. The friends and neighbors that used to come in droves to visit me when I was home on leave were nowhere to be found. As I looked upon the ribbons on my chest, I realized that they now meant little, if any value to the new world facing me. For the first time, I felt alone, isolated, resentful and scared.

23 Veterans kill themselves daily – more than twice the rate of civilians

Beyond alarming, this staggering statistic transcends demographical factors such as racial, gender, socio-economic and even rank. Just two months ago, Navy Vice Admiral Scott Stearney was found dead in his residence in an “apparent suicide”. The Washington Post reported that “the average age of veteran suicides with was nearly 60 years old, not representative of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans generation.”

In order to address the veteran suicide epidemic, we must first understand the nature of its causes. The challenges of adjustment and transition to civilian life must be tackled while the veteran is still “active” in the military. As the veteran is nearing the expiration of his or her term of service, strong emphasis should be given in the areas of civilian reintegration, education, employment, health-care and especially mental wellbeing care. Greater access to post-active duty healthcare must be made available to veterans dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders, Traumatic Brain Injuries, physical and emotional disabilities. The veteran, beginning with his tenure on active duty, must be encouraged to seek help free of stigma and ridicule. While great strides have been made by the military as well as by the federal and local legistatures to better the treatment of veterans, more must be done. The core of our efforts should be focused upon the transition of our veterans from the battlefields to the fields of civilian life. We must do more to foster supportive community relationships between exiting veterans and their “home bases”. We must create robust partnership programs infusing the private with the public sectors to bridge the gap between those who serve and those who do not.

A Band of Brothers – Esprit De Corps

Perhaps the greatest sense of despair I felt when I left the military was utter isolation and loneliness. While the Marine Corps taught me tirelessly about the idealogy of “esprit de corps” – the common spirit existing in the members of an elite organization that inspires enthusiasm, devotion, and strong reverence for the honor of the organization – there was a notable absence of such when I returned home. I no longer have the luxury of relying upon my brothers in arms to cover my back during the tough times. I had difficulty dealing with my peers in the civilian world. This sense of isolation, if left alone, can quickly turn into anger, resentment and despair. A fundamental shift in our approach to combat the cataclysmic rate of veteran suicides is to recognize that exiting veterans desperately need to retain their esprit de corps identity, purpose and community. Veteran advocacy groups must work with the communities of exiting veterans to promote a “band of brothers” support groups that are specific to each branch of service, tour of duty, and shared experiences, if possible. These groups would go a long way to ensure that the veteran “feels at home” when he or she reaches the end of active military service. After all, birds of a feather do indeed flock together.

David N. Lam

We are already planning for the next Broward Mental Health Summit!

We are already planning for the next Broward Mental Health Summit!

After the success of our inaugural event, the Broward Mental Health Summit (BMHS) this past September, we couldn’t wait to get started on the planning of our next event, the 2019 Broward Mental Health Summit which will take place at the same Charles F. Dodge Center in Pembroke Pines on September 12, 2019.  While the inaugural Summit drew over 400 people and $35,000 in sponsorships and donations, we are looking to exceed these totals in 2019.

Broward Mental Health Summit is already the most talked about and anticipated behavioral health event in South Florida.  With media coverage from NBC-6 as well as radio air time, our event has been mentioned in dozens of local and national publications.  Of course, the Summit has also been featured prominently in social media, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.

What’s unique about the Broward Mental Health Summit? Unlike other behavioral health industry events, BMHS is about bringing the community together, from all walks of life.  “Our goal is to get the community to talk about mental health openly”, said the Summit’s co-Chairman David Lam. “By talking, we are in essence normalizing mental health and promoting greater understanding and acceptance for those struggling with the disease.”

If you are passionate about mental health and would like to become our community partners, the following are a list of scheduled sponsorships available:

Presenting Sponsor $7,500.00 (Industry Exclusive)

  • Beautiful Presenting Sponsorship Plaque (Presented on stage)
  • Presenting Sponsor’s logo on “Challenge Coin” commemorating event
  • Welcoming remarks by sponsor’s representative from the podium during morning invocation
  • Signage with Sponsor’s logo at door of all break rooms (seminars)
  • 40 Tickets to Event
  • Reserved Tables with Sponsor’s logo sign
  • Mention in Event Website (with logo linked to sponsor’s website)
  • Sponsor’s logo prominently placed in the Program Booklet’s cover page
  • Brief Presenting Sponsor message in Program Booklet introductory page
  • Full page/full color ad in Program Booklet
  • Sponsorship recognition with sponsor’s logo on giant screen during event
  • Sponsor’s mention in credits of the event video
  • Exhibitor Table
  • Invitation for sponsor’s representative to receive “proclamations” from county and city commissioners

Diamond Sponsor $5,000.00

  • Beautiful Diamond Sponsorship Plaque (Presented on stage)
  • Signage with Sponsor’s logo at door of all break rooms (seminars)
  • 30 Tickets to Event
  • Reserved Tables with Sponsor’s logo sign
  • Mention in Event Website (with logo linked to sponsor’s website)
  • Full page/full color ad in Program Booklet
  • Sponsorship recognition with Sponsor’s logo on giant screen during event
  • Sponsor’s mention in credits of the event video
  • Exhibitor Table

Platinum Sponsor $3,000.00

  • Beautiful Sponsorship Plaque (Presented on stage)
  • 20 Tickets to Event
  • Reserved Tables with Sponsor’s logo sign
  • Mention in Event Website (with logo linked to sponsor’s website)
  • Full page/full color ad in Program Booklet
  • Sponsorship recognition with sponsor’s logo on giant screen during event
  • Sponsor’s mention in credits of the event video
  • Exhibitor Table

To become a valued sponsor, please visit: www.browardmentalhealthsummit.org.  All proceeds for the Summit will benefit the Sheriff’s Foundation of Broward County, a qualifying 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.  For more information on how you can become a volunteer at the 2019 Broward Mental Health Summit, please call Spark of Hope at (954) 590-8363.

My personal reflections: Broward Mental Health Summit

My personal reflections: Broward Mental Health Summit

I am so proud to have been a part of the first ever Broward Mental Health Summit held on September 12th, 2018! This was a hugely successful event which brought awareness to the disease of Mental Health to the South Florida community. Seeing all of the amazing people at the Summit supporting us in our endeavor, and more importantly, who care about this disease as much as I do, brought tears to my eyes, a smile to my face and warmth to my heart.  The outpouring of support from our community prove that together, we can truly make a difference in the lives of those suffering from addiction and mental illness.

All of our guest speakers were amazingly informative and their words were incredibly moving.  If there was one speaker that stood out, it was Michi Marshall.  Her courageous story had the biggest impact on me, both as a woman and as someone coping with the mental illness of a loved one.  Not only because I’m a huge Dolphins fan, but the fact that she was able to share her story about her husband, Brandon Marshall, the famed football player, so openly and candidly was truly inspiring.  She realized that in spite of the beautiful mansion they lived in, the fancy cars they drove and all the money they had, it did not protect them from a disease like mental health.  Thankfully, once they became aware of what was happening to Brandon, treatment was sought immediately to help rectify the problem.  Courageously, they stood by each other’s side through the entire ordeal.  Michi eloquently expressed the importance of “being vulnerable so others can be vulnerable back with you”. WOW, how refreshingly poignant was this to hear because this was precisely what I’ve always felt to be true.  Although it might not be easy, but when someone has the ability to be vulnerable, healing can begin.  Trust can be rebuilt and a solid foundation can be re-established.

As I sat there marveling at the enormous crowd that turned out for the Summit, I couldn’t help but feel a tremendous sense of relief to know that there is incredible support as well as a wealth of information available to the community in our hopes to find the cure for mental illness one soul at a time.

I was honored from the first moment David asked me to become the Director of Spark Of Hope’s First Responders and Veterans Recovery Program, which was launched in January of this year.   I was moved immeasurably when he allowed me to name the Program (Cindi McCue Initiative) in honor of my close friend and former law enforcement colleague, Cindi McCue.  Tragically, Cindi, unbeknownst to those closest to her, suffered from mental illness and took her own life in 2015.

As a First Responder for over 18 years, I know first-hand how important it is to address addiction and Mental Health matters openly and free from stigma.  On a personal level, this disease is no stranger to me and to my family, as my oldest son has been struggling with mental health throughout his recent years.  Thankfully, he’d always felt safe to talk to me about everything and never had an issue dealing with his struggles.  I remembered the first time he disclosed the news to me at the age of 21…“Mom I think there’s something wrong with me. I don’t care about anything, I literally have no feelings about anything”.  I felt my heart sink.  I knew immediately then he needed to get help.  Thanks to Chrysalis, he was able to get an in-house therapist to help him at the time.  I will never forget the morning of June 1st, 2017, when my son, then 24, came into my room at 4 am to wake me up. Our conversation was eerily normal and brief.  He uttered the following words to me quietly “Mom, I’m not feeling well, I’m going to go to the hospital.” I asked him if he was ok.  He replied nonchalantly “yeah…yeah I must have a bug or something because my stomach is hurting”. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Coral Springs Police Officers were actually waiting in my living room to Baker Act him.  When I arrived home at 6 pm that evening, I realized that my son was still not back.  My maternal intuition instinctively kicked in and told me that there was something wrong. I told myself to calm down.  I began to dial the numbers of area hospitals, and after a few calls, thankfully, I located him! I spoke to the nurse in charge who advised she was unable to disclose any specific details about my son because he was an adult. She said the only thing she could tell me was that my son had been Baker Acted.  As soon as I heard those words, my heart sank again as tears streamed down my face uncontrollably.  From working in law enforcement for many years, I immediately knew what had happened.  I thanked the nurse and hung up the phone quickly.  I needed to be with my son. As I arrived at the hospital and hurried to my son’s bedside, I was horrified by the sight that confronted me.  My son was unconscious, surrounded by tubes and an IV protruding from his arm.  The sight sickened me to my core.  I will never forget this image of my poor son.  It is an image that no mother should have to bear.  Miraculously, my son recovered. Still, there were no words to aptly describe the feeling of despair of witnessing my son attempting to take his own life.  My “baby” was suffering and I was utterly helpless and unable to help him…

The disease of mental illness affects everyone.  It bears no mercy.  It does not discriminate.  No population is immune from it.  As a mother, I must fight with every fiber of my being to bring this disease to the forefront of acceptance.  As a First Responder, I will help others by being attentive to their cries for help.  As a concerned citizen, I hope you will join me to obliterate the stigma of those struggling with mental illness so we can provide better healthcare for those in need.

Faith Montgomery

Director of the Cindi McCue Initiative – First Responders’ Recovery Program

Spark of Hope

Spark of Hope joins Community Partners to create a historic summit on mental health in South Florida

Spark of Hope joins Community Partners to create a historic summit on mental health in South Florida

The mental health crisis has reached epic proportions in this country.  There is no population immune from the disease of mental illness.  From first responders to veterans, from the young to the elderly, Americans are suffering from mental health related illnesses like never before. Sadly, little has been done to effectively address the state of mental health crisis in America.  Finally, a group of caring and passionate professionals, known as Community Partners, are banding together in South Florida to do something about it.  Led by the leaders at the Sheriffs Foundation of Broward County, the Broward County Mental Health Summit Committee was formed to create awareness and to eradicate stigma associated with those suffering from mental illnesses.  Organizations and professionals from all walks of life, serving the non-profit and for-profit sectors, have come together to create this historic panel.  The following are a list of some of the organizations forming this distinguished panel:

  • Baptist Health of South Florida
  • Barry University
  • Broward 2-1-1
  • Broward Sheriff’s Foundation
  • Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO)
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF)
  • Florida Power and Light (FPL)
  • HANDY
  • Henderson Behavioral Health
  • Hispanic Unity of Florida
  • inWeston Magazine
  • Jewish Federation of Broward County
  • Memorial Healthcare System
  • Nova Southeastern University
  • Naemi
  • Spark of Hope
  • United Way of Broward County
  • VDA Trial Lawyers
  • Vital Financial Group
  • Women in Distress of Broward County
  • Wellsfargo

Spark of Hope is proud to be an active Community Partner for such a worthwhile cause.  “The purpose of our existence as human beings is to serve and help others”, said David Lam, Executive Director of Spark of Hope.  “We are honored to be a part of such an auspicious undertaking and will provide whatever resources necessary to serve our community and those in need.”

Captain Juan “JC” Arias, Executive Director of Sheriffs Foundation of Broward County and Chairman of The Broward Mental Health Summit is excited about the growing list of volunteering organizations and professionals joining the Summit’s Committee in the recent weeks.  “We’d started with just a few volunteers in the beginning and it has quickly expanded to 32 current Community Partners.  Through our collective efforts, we will be reaching tens of thousands of citizens in the next several weeks.”

The Broward County Mental Health Summit Committee’s inaugural event is entitled “Broward Mental Health Summit” and will take place on Wednesday September 12, 2018 at the Charles F. Dodge City Center in Pembroke Pines.  An esteemed panel of mental health experts and guest lecturers will be on hand to speak about the current state of mental health as it relates to the following populations: Veterans, Law Enforcement, the Elderly, Youths, and Attorneys. The expected turn-out for this unprecedented event is between 800-1000 attendees.  The Summit organizers hope to use the event as a platform to galvanize support and funding for future events and projects.

For more information or to register to purchase tickets for the Broward Mental Health Summit, please visit: http://sheriffsfoundationofbroward.org/bmh-summit-registration-form/

If you would like to donate or become a sponsor for this great cause, please contact us at: david@sparkofhope.net.  All proceeds will benefit the Sheriff’s Foundation of Broward County.