Chris Celio Wins 2018 Hope Award

On July 30, 2018, Chris Celio, PsyD, our Director of Clinical Programs, won the Hope Award, as voted on by the fifty graduates of Contra Costa County Office of Consumer Empowerment's SPIRIT Program. The SPIRIT program is a widely recognized six-month, college-level training program for individuals with lived experience in the adult mental health system, either as consumers or family members. Chris Celio has taught a few classes in SPIRIT yearly since 2011 and in 2018 he again taught classes on Communication Skills, Undersetanding Clinical Boundaries, and Self-Care's for the Behavioral Health Professional.

During the 2018 SPIRIT Graduation, Chris was presented with the Hope Award and shared the following speech with those in attendance:

"The strongest trees are the ugliest trees. It takes lived experience to shape trees to stand up to the elements they'll face. You cannot take a tree grown in a jungle or a nursery and transplant it to a cliff. The best trees to thrive on a cliff are those that suffered on a cliff and found a way to grow up strong. Those are the trees that can be the best role models for other saplings wanting to grow there.

If you visit someone at a shelter with the same grace and respect like you’re walking into a 5 star hotel, you might have been in SPIRIT

If you hear a client tell you what it’s like to have reached bottom yet you still have hope they can pick themself up and thrive, you might have been in SPIRIT

If you find joy in the smallest accomplishments of those you work with and don’t judge them when they take two steps back, you might have been in SPIRIT

If you know the days may feel like a long struggle but the years can whisk by easily like a short walk to recovery when done in fellowship, you might have been in SPIRIT.

If you can hear the most hopeless person tell their story and still find hope, respect, and optimism, you might have been in SPIRIT.

If you can now tell your story as one that was marked by rough suffering yet now includes a triumphant graduation over it, you are in SPIRIT and today is the day your story turns to the next chapter.

If you know that you are now like a strong tree planted in a grove of strong trees, you are a SPIRIT alumni forever and forever can withstand the strongest winds if you stay securely in this fellowship.

Hope doesn't occur naturally in the wild. It doesn't grow on trees. Hope is created through connection. If we are not connected, we cannot give hope to others or receive it. We cannot passively feel how easily hope has the power to raise us up out of despair and darkness. Hope must be built and maintained, stoked and nurtured, shared and re-shared.

Hope is the one food of life that the more you eat, the more you have leftover to eat: and the less you eat, the less you have left to eat.

So be selfish with the hope you feel, bask in it, praise yourself, congratulate yourself every day for what you have done and what you plan to do. For the more you feel hope, the more you spread it to others. The more you celebrate your success today and every day, the more others will feel confident in following in your footsteps.

Your well-being in your future helping roles will depend upon the connections you develop with others, starting with this class, extending out to SPIRIT graduates who are excited to welcome you into their ranks, the people you met on internship, the players you played against in softball, and finally all stakeholders in the wellbeing of our county.

We have a strong county of provider agencies. Instead of rivals, we are aligned together to find the best ways to reduce suffering, increase hope, and keep ourselves happy, laughing, and united in fellowship while we're at it. I have learned so much from those we team up with in service and without my colleagues at Hume, the county, and other providers, I could not face each day with the Hope that recovery is real.

The overwhelming sadness caused by the impact of mental illness is one we have all felt recently. And together, in tearful large groups and small silent huddles, we wondered.

And we questioned if we were enough. We questioned if hope is real or just some fleeting dream just beyond waking. We wondered if we were just one precarious step back to the suffering that begat this journey to today. Is our success real or a paper tiger about to crumble?

And what did we find? We found that only through connection could we find hope again. When one person couldn't find the hope to take a step forward, someone next to them pulled them forward that day. But then that person wavered and another pulled the two along until the first person recovered enough to return the favor and become the hope for the group again.

When we whispered our despair, instead of our words dissipating into our isolated silent shadows, we found ears ready to listen and then buoy us up again. The fellowship of this class was tested and that fellowship held each of you on course to today and beyond.

I would like to share this award with the SPIRIT teachers, the many SPIRIT supervisors, with my colleagues at Hume who let me leave so many times for SPIRIT, the professors at Contra Costa College, the amazing county offices and clinics, and agencies like the Clubhouse for putting on this ceremony year after year after supervising 8 SPIRIT interns!

I am proud to work in this county where lived experience is valued and respected. You are all charged therefore to keep helping the system improve. Whenever people complain about the system, remember, you are now the system and you can help it improve even further, your voice will always be listened to. I look forward to being there with you side by side for the rest of my career, and I will always value greatly that you chose to give this award to me. Thank you!"


July 30, 2018

Click this link to read another speech on Hope: Chris Celio wins 2017 Hope Award