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"Ian Walks America" Speaks At Conference 1 Year After Brother's Suicide

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Last Labor Day, Ian Cummins crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a labor of love.

KDKA first caught up with Ian in Kentucky, and in towns large and small, he found people who had been left behind by suicide - and listened.

His was a mission to save lives. Three-thousand miles from Atlantic to Pacific. And every step this 23-year-old from Dormont took the memory of his 20-year-old brother, Ryan, who had taken his own life a year ago this month.

"The more people who come forward and talk about mental health, the more people who bring it to others' attention - the more it can spread and awareness can be the result," he said.

There are an estimated 35,000 people who commit suicide each year in this country. In 1967, the mother of KDKA's Mary Robb Jackson was one of them.

During his journey, Ian raised thousands of dollars, and he's funding a conference sponsored by the National Alliance On Mental Illness Of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Christine Michaels is the Executive Director of NAMI.

"And the main message today is that we at NAMI, we view suicide as a brain disorder," said Michaels.

Dr. Lisa Pan, a professor at the Pitt Medical School and Western Psych, studies the "Biology of Suicide."

"And there are situations where we can supplement missing proteins - or proteins that are not functioning and solve the problem of depression and suicidal ideation," said Pan.

"And I had to realize that what time we shared was good," says Kathy Fowler. Originally from New Eagle, she knows the impact of suicide on friends and family. In 1995, her 16-year-old son Lambert, an accomplished kid, disappeared and died by his own hand.

"And this illness, I think when it hit him, I think it took his life before he ever knew what happened to him," she said.

"I'm going to be focusing quite a bit on my brother today," said Ian Cummins. The keynote speaker drew a full house to the education conference at the Sheraton Station Square.

It is clear that the young man from Dormont has not ended a journey - it is a continuing crusade.

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