“At that moment I said to myself, ‘absolutely nobody cares,’” Kevin Hines said as he recalled the fateful day in San Francisco, Calif.
In September 2000, 19-year-old Hines found himself on the Golden Gate Bridge, ready to take his own life.
Now, 19 years later, Hines is a brain and mental health advocate, award winning motivational speaker, bestselling author and documentary filmmaker with the goal of helping at least one audience member in every room he speaks to choose to “be here tomorrow.”
Hines spoke to the student body at Dawson County High School Thursday morning with his message of hope and healing, emphasizing his instant regret and his will to live to make a difference.
“Suicide can never be the solution to our problems. It is the problem,” Hines said.
Hines, now 37, has lost eight people in his life to suicide. Three of those he says were “some of the greatest brain health advocates and suicide prevention activists we’ve ever known, and they all called me before they passed to tell me they were doing better.”
Hines recognized that many people in the Performing Arts Center statistically had lost at least one person to suicide. In fact, Dawson County has lost five students to suicide in the past five years.
“The only way to properly grieve a suicide is together without blame and with no guilt. It doesn’t belong to you, I promise you that,” Hines said. “They didn’t die because of you. They didn’t die in spite of you. They died because of an unrelenting, lethal, emotional pain that had likely nothing to do with you.”
Hines spent time Aug. 29 to tell his story to the students of Dawson County High School and junior high school, who watched his speech via a live video feed.
“I believed I was useless. I felt I had no value. I thought I had no worth in this world. I felt a burden to everybody who loved me, but on all of those accounts, my friends, I was wrong,” Hines said. “I had value. I was worthy. I’m important to those who love me and I’m supposed to be here. But I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see the forest through the trees. All I felt was pain.”
Growing up wasn’t easy for Hines. Born in poverty to parents addicted to alcohol and hard drug use landed Hines and his biological brother in foster care as infants where the two were neglected and contracted bronchitis that ultimately killed his brother.
In grade school, Hines was bullied for his racial background for being what he describes as part black, part Jamaican and part Native American.
“The kids at my school, they tortured me because of it. It was well known why they hated me,” Hines said. “When I was in fourth grade, eighth graders would pick me up, turn me upside down and place me in garbage cans and tell me that’s what I was because of my race, and that hurt. That broke me.”
In high school at 17-years-old, Hines had his first severe symptom of his bipolar disorder and by 19, Hines said “my brain couldn’t take the weight and the pain any longer.”
He sat down to write his suicide note, recalling what he had written to his family and friends.
“I said to my best friend, Jake, the worst part of the entire note ‘you’ll find another best friend,’” he said. “My biggest regret was not walking into my father’s room the morning of my suicidal crisis and saying four simple but effective words: ‘I need help now.’”
Hines took a bus to the Golden Gate Bridge, openly sobbing and recalling that no one reached out to him with kindness or to ask if he needed help, a small gesture Hines said he needed in that moment. Instead, he was met with a jeering man and a bus driver who gruffly told him to exit the bus at his stop.
“That is what’s wrong with some of society today, this innate human ability to see somebody, anybody in the greatest lethal emotional pain they’ve ever experienced but feel nothing for them but fear of them and apathy towards them,” Hines said.
When Hines jumped over the bridge railing, he remembers being filled with immediate regret as he fell 220 feet in a matter of four seconds. It amounted to a 25 story fall, hitting the water below at 70 miles per hour.
Hines shattered his body, with three vertebrae completely shattered like glass. He only missed severing his spinal cord by two millimeters.
Of the2-3,000 people who have attempted suicide at the Golden Gate Bridge, Hines is one of the 39 survivors, and the only survivor to regain completely physical mobility after the fall.
Hines realized after he had jumped from the bridge that even though his brain told him that no one cared, it couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
“Everybody cared. Every member of my family, every one of my friends, every acquaintance I ever had would have been there to rip me from that rail to save me because of how much they cared,” Hines explained. “My brain wasn’t allowing me to care. My brain was trying to end me as I was desperately trying to cling to this life. I never wanted to die by my hands. I believed I had to. Those are two categorically different things.”
Hines emphasized the importance of positive brain health and recognizing that your thoughts do not have to become your actions.
“If we can recognize that our thoughts don’t have to own, rule or define our next action we can always stay here in the face of suicidal pain,” Hines said. “We never have to attempt. We never have to die by our hands.”
Hines went on to say that just because someone says hateful, spiteful and negative things to you doesn’t mean you have to listen to them. Instead, you must take those negative things and reverse the negative inner voice in your head so that “you can survive any pain, any time.”
Hines encouraged anyone feeling suicidal to text CNQR to 741-741 or to call 1 (800) 273-8255. More free resources are available at www.kevinhinesstory.com/resources and www.YouTube.com/KevinHines.