Kevin Hines has spoken to over a quarter of a million people about his first hand experience with suicidal thoughts and his eventual attempt to die by jumping off of the Golden Gate Bridge. He is one of 31 to have survived such an attempt. The fact is that less than a tenth of 2% of people have survived such a jump while having regained full mobility and the ability to run 6-10 miles a day. He is a survivor who is now actively spreading the message of living mentally well and the prevention of suicide. In our interview, Kevin has an important message for those who are going through a tough time or contemplating suicide: "Please whatever you are thinking, stay here, you will ultimately see your purpose and it was never, will never, and can never be to die by suicide."
In 2000, you decided to take your own life after years of suffering from your previously undiagnosed Bi-polar disorder. What was the main reason you didn't want or seek help?
Actually, I had been already diagnosed at the age of 17 and 1/2 in the year 1998. I lived with the diagnosed illness for nearly 2 years prior to "believing I had to die." I did not once "want" to die. I had come to a point in my disastrous mental health where I truly thought/believed I had no other option. I had sought out help in 1998. The help was inadequate, and I was in no place to fight hard for my own well-being. I was lost.
Did you ever consider that it was a mental illness causing your emotional and psychological difficulties?
I not only considered it, I knew it deep down, but was physically, mentally and emotionally incapable of admitting such a fact to myself. I was in the darkness and succumbed to the depths of a great depression, I was in complete and total denial.
How did and do you feel about stigma that surrounds mental illnesses?
I feel that stigma is not a strong enough word to describe "pure and simple discrimination." We have become a society that values physical bravado, a pick yourself up by your bootstraps attitude, snap out of it and leave little time for personal grief society. We have forgotten that anything can happen to anyone at any given time. We have judged when we just needed to empathize and understand.
When the tourist approached you for a picture, it seemed that that was the straw that broke the camel's back. Is there anything that you wanted to say to her or to anyone else prior to your attempt that you couldn't manage to say?
I wish I said these words..."I need help...I think I have to die, please help me." I wish that level of guidance could have been afforded me as I stood there crying profusely. I wish I could have seen a glimmer of hope...the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. I wish I saw my future and I wish I knew it was bright.
How do you cope with stress now vs. prior to your suicide attempt?
I have a detailed 10 + step plan that I utilize every single waking day/moment where I focus strictly on my personal mental physical and emotional health...including a very strict circadian rhythm (sleep cycle), and rigorous exercise.
How has your outlook on life changed?
Every waking moment on this earth is a gift. Life is a gift...the greatest gift of all. No matter if I am hurting mentally, or rejoicing happiness, it is always a great day to be alive.
If your suicide attempt had been successful, what are all the things you would have missed out on?
Well, no suicide attempt should ever be called "successful" it should in my opinion be called a "Devastating beyond comprehension-death by suicide." If I had died by suicide, I would have missed the last nearly 11 years, the laughter, the pain, meeting the woman of my dreams, marrying that woman, our first through fourth anniversary. The growing of my newly changed beautiful relationships with my parents, the ability to write my book. I would have missed over a decade which every day feels like a new and oh so wonderful lifetime.
How do you feel now, looking at the Golden Gate Bridge?
I have fully physically recovered; I see it as just a bridge, one of millions. However, I loathe the bureaucracy that holds it together disallowing the people who want to help save those who suffer from mental illness, temporary insanity, or impulse from death by suicide. I hate the way San Francisco's "progressive" nature falls to the wayside when it comes to helping those who for whatever reason at that particular deadly moment cannot help themselves! It's time for all who care about their loved ones, mental illness, struggles or not, to stand up and shout and get the net built.
If there was one thing you could tell a young person who is going through a tough time, what would it be?
It's not easy, it never will be (a mental health battle of any kind) but if you put tremendous effort, great work ethic and a sincere amount of time, your healing mentally will absolutely be possible and plausible. You may never be cured...but you must have hope...you are so loved and cared for…this world needs you alive and fighting to be well. Please whatever you are thinking, stay here, you will ultimately see your purpose and it was never, will never, and can never be to die by suicide.
What’s one thing that makes you happy?
Very simple...smiles (from anyone) and the love of my family friends and especially wife.