The “13 Reasons to Fly” mental health awareness and suicide prevention event returned Saturday with an in-person event at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center.
It was the third year for the conference, but last year’s presentations were all virtual. And though the event took place in a larger venue, it drew a fairly small crowd of attendees for four break-out sessions throughout the day.
In 2019, one activity had participants design a kite and decorate it with 13 reasons to be grateful. That activity returned this year, led by Janalin Taylor, a school-based therapist with the Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center.
For those who repeated the activity, Taylor asked what items may have been the same or different from last time.
This reporter still has her kite at the office. Two years ago, I wrote, “I want to visit Kentucky someday and see thoroughbreds run through a field of bluegrass.”
I actually did that this past summer.
“When you wrote that, did you have any idea it would happen?” Taylor asked.
Not a clue.
“That shows you how life can change in unexpected ways, in a short time. We don’t know what will happen next. Something really good can happen,” Taylor noted.
It was a thought-provoking and inspiring exercise.
KEYNOTE speaker for the day was Amber Jewell, a counselor and author who lives in Burlington.
She spoke of her experiences as a former foster child and survivor of childhood abuse. She discussed a few chapters and concepts from her book, particularly the idea that “tough is tolerable.” We’ve all been through difficult times, and it isn’t always easy, but we’ve survived, she noted.
She also discussed an idea that she said people seem to connect with the most: “Find your people.”
Find the people you connect with and trust.
“Those people see the best in you, but also challenge you,” she said.
Though social media makes it seem most people have dozens, if not hundreds, of friends, most of us have only two or three people with whom we truly connect, and even they may change over time, Jewell said.
Jewell also led a breakout prevent on “Suicide Prevention and Hope.”
She focused on helping attendees define what hope and success looks like to them, and how to identify positive things about ourselves.
“Send yourself a Christmas card. What would you write to yourself?” she said. “What we give to others, we are worthy of, too.”
KURT Jackson, a motivational speaker from Yates Center, led a session on “Shedding Mental Weight.” He discussed his personal story of the losses of his brother and father, and family and personal history of alcoholism.
He offered a list of “diet tips” to shed the mental baggage that can hold us down. They included such things as “Decide to make a change,” “Set intentions and goals” and “Have a mental strengthening exercise daily.”
Some of his tips included getting rid of negative influences like social media or even friends, and focus on surrounding yourself with healthy people and activities, including music, movies and reading material that inspires you to be better.
LISA Holloway and Matt Stuckey, adolescent case managers with the SEKMHC, also led an interactive session on “Meditation and Mindfulness.” They taught various coping skills, such as breathing techniques, to help someone get back in control of situations and emotions.