Monday Medical: Wellness Conference features dynamic speakers |

Monday Medical: Wellness Conference features dynamic speakers

Christine McKelvie

Few people who jump off the Golden Gate Bridge live to tell the tale. Kevin Hines is that rare individual who not only survived his suicide attempt but chooses to talk about it in hopes of saving others.

On Sept. 29, Hines will be a keynote speaker at the second annual Yampa Valley Wellness Conference in Steamboat Springs. The event, subtitled Building a Caring Community, is free to the public thanks to generous sponsors.

"I had heard Kevin speak in Denver, and I was so taken with his story that I asked him to present here in Steamboat," said Ronna Autrey, executive director of Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide. "Many other speakers and topics were selected based on suggestions from last year's audience."

Conference speakers and panels will cover a variety of intriguing subjects. Discussions about resiliency, eating disorders and the teenage brain are aimed primarily at youths and their families.

All ages are covered in sessions on integrative health, bipolar spectrum disorder, depression and anxiety, and "QPR" training for suicide prevention. A panel of local experts will explore aging, which brings changes and choices.

Hines tops the list of keynote speakers. He has spoken to more than a quarter-million people about his experience with suicidal thoughts and his jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. Hines has been featured in a film and on numerous television programs as he continues his life's work of reaching out to others to help prevent suicide.

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The link between high altitude and depression will be presented by Dr. Perry Renshaw in another keynote address. Renshaw thinks it is no coincidence that nine Rocky Mountain states and Alaska lead the nation in suicide rates.

Dr. Harry L. Haroutunian, physician director of the Betty Ford Center Licensed Health Professionals Program, is the luncheon keynote speaker. He will talk about the epidemic of prescription drug abuse in our nation.

"We're really excited about these high-powered speakers," Autrey said. "Our goal is to create a more educated and safer community.

"Perhaps a loved one has a bipolar or eating disorder and doesn't know what resources are out there. This conference is an opportunity to learn from experts and realize you're not alone."

Last year's inaugural event attracted an audience of about 120 people. Based on early sign-ups, Autrey is optimistic that conference attendance may reach full capacity of 200.

"People are coming from Denver, Breckenridge, Greeley and all over Colorado," Autrey said. "We hope the majority of attendees will be from Routt and Moffat counties."

Autrey leads an organizing committee that includes Tom Gangel, of Colorado West Regional Mental Health; Jane Howell, of Yampa Valley Medical Center and the Doak Walker Care Center; Erin Autrey Neren, of 3Story Design; and Christina A. Rosch, of REPS.

"We listened to last year's audience and adjusted the format," Autrey said. "We chose certain topics, added a third keynote speaker and made the breakout sessions a little longer to allow more questions and answers."

The Wellness Conference will be held at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort. Advance registration is required and can be done online at

Christine McKelvie is a writer/editor for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

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