Davidson Police Detective Vernon Siders Honored by Mental Health America
It’s not often that you meet someone who’s literally “larger than life.” But Davidson police detective Vernon Siders is one of them. This 11 year veteran of the Davidson police force was celebrated with unveiling of a large artistic mural on the eighth floor of the Mecklenburg County Courthouse.
The figures of Siders and two other models, titled “Mental Health Faces in Diversity,” is about 12 x 9 feet. It was commissioned by the Mental Health America (MHA) organization and created by local artist Edwin Gill with recycled, colored glass. It is intended to show how well-being is a human condition and not specific to certain cultures.
The mural emphasizes MHA’a steadfast efforts to show people contemplating suicide that there’s always another way to face their problems. Many people at the celebration were survivors of mental trauma, including Siders. In his remarks, Siders said he’s a living example of PTSD. As a New York City police officer he responded to the terror attacks on 9/11, and later as a Marine, he served combat tours in the Middle East in 2003 and 2005. The experiences left him mentally devastated, and he thought constantly about killing himself with his service weapon. “I wanted to die and didn’t know how to stop the pain,” he confessed.
He finally sought help in 2013 and enrolled in a Mental Health America suicide prevention program called “Question, Persuade and Refer” (QPR). Since that time, he has been fighting for his right to live, and sharing his experiences as an MHA “storyteller” and suicide prevention trainer. He regularly speaks before groups of fellow police officers, high school students, church congregations, legislators, senior citizens, military veterans, and others.
Siders said, “This mural is a reminder that even if the struggle continues, one is never alone in bearing life’s burdens.” MHA’s theme for the year ahead, “We see you,” emphasizes that fact.
MHA associate director Andrea Towner said MHA has been operational in this area since 1933, in general efforts around advocacy, education, and suicide prevention. She said they deliver their message to about 2,000 people per year, “Vernon is a brave example of the success of QPR, of bringing the stigma to light,” she said.
Towner said locating the mural on the eighth floor with the MHA offices and family court chambers calls attention to the fact that suicide often strikes young people who are at vulnerable stages of life. Siders hopes that his portrait looking over them will give them hope for their struggles.
Bill Giduz was the son who followed his father’s footsteps into journalism. He has been involved his entire life with news and photography in schools he attended and jobs he’s held. He believes now that he’s got a few good years left to devote to The News of Davidson.