Last week at the Pierre, the Fountain House annual symposium and luncheon focused on the topic of "Suicide: Looking for Answers" with a panel of experts in this field. A special humanitarian award was presented to HBO's Sheila Nevins, introduced by Rosie O'Donnell.
Dr. Maria Oquendo opened the symposium with the grim news that suicide has increased for girls aged 10-14, and for women aged 45-64. Professor Thomas Joiner who had lost his father to suicide spoke of three feelings often shared by those contemplating taking their lives: they often feel fearsome, burdensome, and lonely. Most emotional was Kevin Hines, a young man who survived after throwing himself off the Golden Gate Bridge. Rescued by the coast guard after a woman in a car called, and then immediately operated upon for his broken back, Hines is now an inspirational speaker on suicide, traveling all over the world with a message for those who see a loved one on the brink: "Have a meal together."
Speaking of meals, by this time, the guests were on dessert, a fabulous chocolate mousse inspiring Rosie O'Donnell to point out, "That's real whipped cream." She further quipped she has some mental health issues of her own, and to her, all the women seated before her looked the same, maybe pulled by the same doctor. O'Donnell can be funny about anything, even her own heart attack, the subject of an HBO documentary. She introduced a reel of hits from HBO's list of impressive films green lit or initiated by Sheila Nevins: Boy Interrupted, Life According to Sam, Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking, all resonant on health issues.
Always gracious, Nevins was brief: "I like to do films about empathy, so that's what I do. Let's live and be happy and help other people."
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.