Author: spark

Team Work Makes All Dreams Work

Team Work Makes All Dreams Work

We did it! On Friday, February 22, 2019 the Broward Mental Health Summit was awarded 2-1-1 Broward’s “non-profit organization of the year for collaboration.” This prestigious award recognizes collaboration as one of the most important ways to achieve lasting and positive changes in our community. It celebrates two or more organizations that have partnered to address and improve the community at large.

For the incredible team led by Chairman of the Sheriffs Foundation of Broward County and Chairman of the Broward Mental Health Summit, Juan Arias, the Award culminates the incredible success of the inaugural Broward Mental Health Summit which took place on Septemeber 12, 2018. More than two dozen community partners, healthcare providers, business organizations, civic leaders and dedicated professionals joined together to promote mental health for all of the citizens of Broward County and beyond. The Summit drew over 400 people, many for different walks of life concerned about the state of mental health in our community.

“We were just thrilled to receive this prestigious Award for the recognition of all the hard work put in by our amazing team”, said Mr. Arias, aka “Captain JC”, “and we can’t wait to get started on planning for the 2019 Summit!”

“Incredible! Just incredible and so blessed to be a part of this special group. We are like the SEAL Team 6 of behavioral healthcare advocates”, according to David Lam of Spark of Hope, and co-Chair of the Broward Mental Health Summit. “Wait until you see what we have in store for this year’s summit. It promises to be even bigger and better than last year’s, beginning with our incredible Keynote Speaker, Frank Biden.”

The 2019 Broward Mental Health Summit will once again take place at the Charles F. Dodge City Center in Pembroke Pines on September 12, 2019. For inquiries and sponsorship opportunities, please visit www.browardmentalhealthsummit.org or call Spark of Hope at (954) 590 -8363

Congratulations to the amazing team at the Broward Mental Health Summit! #Browardmentalhealthsummit

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 frightening 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. After all, what can be more frightening than warfare?

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 area of civilian life-skills such as academic, vocational, social and interpersonal as I entered my rite of adult passage in a place far from home. Everything I’d learned in my 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 imagine, my adjustment to civilian life was very difficult.

As I stepped off the Greyhound, I soon began to realize that things were quite 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 out in droves to visit me when I was home on leave were now nowhere to be found. As I looked down at the military service 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 age, race, 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 was nearly 60 years old, and not representative of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans generation.” What is going on here?

In order to address the veteran depression and suicide epidemic, we must first understand the underlying nature of its causes. In my opinion, the post-service challenges of adjustment and transition to civilian life for most veterans can be overwhelming. Just as veterans prepared themselves to become members of our elite armed forces – physically, emotionally and psychologically – they must equally prepare themselves for life after the military. The “transition from military to civilian life” training must be implemented while the veteran is still on active duty 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, community acceptance, education, employment, health-care access 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 as well as other physical and emotional disabilities. There should be no room for compromise when it comes to the state of health and wellbeing of our veteran population. The veteran, beginning with his or her time on active duty, must be encouraged to seek help free of stigma and ridicule from their chain of command. While great strides have been made by the military as well as by federal and local veteran agencies to better the quality of treatment of veterans, more must be done. In my opinion, the core objective of veteran advocacy groups 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 and understanding between exiting veterans and their civilian “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 feelings of despair I felt when I left the military was the utter sense of isolation, lack of purpose and loneliness. While the Marine Corps tirelessly instilled in every Marine the ideological virtues of “esprit de corps” – the common spirit existing in the members of an elite organization that inspires unwavering enthusiasm, devotion, and strong reverence for the honor of the organization – there was a notable absence of such when I returned home as a civilian. After all, there was no unified mission to keep our morale up. Additionally, loneliness quickly set in as I no longer had 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. There was little in common between me, a recently discharged combat veteran and my civilian counterparts. The sense of isolation and lack of purpose, if left unattended to, can quickly turn into anger, resentment and despair.

In speaking to many former military personnel today, they too have shared that one of the greatest missing components in civilian life is the lack of brotherhood and esprit de corps. Exiting veterans, particularly those that have served in combat theaters, are often warriors without a mission when their terms of military service expire. It is time that society recognizes the significance of this void.

Therefore, a fundamental shift in our approach to combat the cataclysmic rate of veteran depression and suicides is to first recognize that exiting veterans desperately need to retain their sense of identity, purpose and community. Veteran advocacy groups must work with the communities of exiting veterans to promote a “band of brothers” (“sisters”) support groups that are distinct and specific to each branch of service, tour of duty, and shared experiences, if possible. The more a veteran has in common with the peers from his or her support group, the better it is for the veteran to find acceptance and commonality. These support groups must be publicized prominently in every city and town so that returning veterans can come forward at their readiness to seek membership engagement. If formed properly, such “band of brothers” support 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

Executive Director of Spark of Hope

#Veteransinrecovery

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