Sherry Cusumano (l to r), Dr. Celeste Johnson, Niki Shah and W. Stephen Love.
More than 90 attendees turned out for this morning’s educational event “Growing Up in North Texas: Removing the Stigma Around Mental Health” at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. The mental health speaker series was hosted by Children at Risk in coordination with the DFW Hospital Council (DFWHC) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness North Texas.
By way of New York City, Ciara Dockery, PhD, the director of NFL Life Line, served as keynote speaker with an introduction by Timmy Newsome, owner of Newtec Business Solutions, former Dallas Cowboys player and Children At Risk Advisory Board Chair.
Closing the program was a panel of experts moderated by DFWHC President/CEO W. Stephen Love. Panelists included Sherry Cusumano, RN, administrative director of community education at Medical City Green Oaks; Dr. Celeste Johnson, vice president of nursing and behavioral health at Parkland Health & Hospital System; and Niki Shah, system vice president, community health at Baylor Scott and White Health.
Dockery detailed the beginning of NFL Life Line in 2012, inspired by an unfortunate series of suicides by professional football players. The organization was established for players, coaches, staffs and family members who may be in crisis. NFL Life Line is a free and independently operated resource that connects callers with trained counselors who can help individuals 24 hours a day.
Statistics provided by Dockery detailed the decrease in numbers of numerous illnesses including heart disease and AIDS, while suicide rates in the U.S. have increased during the same span. She also discussed opportunities for altering the portrayal of suicide in the media with an emphasis placed on success stories rather than failures, thus avoiding a contagion, or “copycat,” phenomenon.
According to Dockery, a copycat suicide is defined as an emulation of another suicide the person knows about due to depictions of the original suicide on television and in other media. She provided stats detailing a decrease in suicides when success stories on people overcoming their depression are emphasized.