Kevin Hines pleaded with a standing room-only group of students, parents and educators at Rockford High School to fight the mental illnesses that drove him to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge 18 years ago.
“We’re here for one reason: We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers,” said Hines during his Oct. 17 keynote speech at Developing Healthy Kids VII, a community education and prevention event that included a community mental health resource expo aimed at connecting students, parents and educators with services that are available in West Michigan.
“When does the hurting by our own words and actions stop? The answer is now,” said Hines at the end of his hour-long talk. “We can stop the chain of abuse and neglect tonight.”
Hines urged those contemplating suicide to send a text CNQR to 741741, a 24-hour suicide prevention site, or to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Lisa Watson, a volunteer for Rockford HOPE, a suicide prevention group, was the first in line to get Hines’ signature on her copy of his latest book, “Cracked, But Not Broken.”
“My passion in life is suicide prevention,” said Watson, who said she lost a friend to suicide. “The more we talk about suicide, the less stigma it has.”
Hines, who was on a seven-city book tour, said the bipolar disorder that he developed in his late teens clouded his ability to see the love and care that surrounded him by his friends and family. Hines pitched himself from the famous San Francisco bridge 220 feet above the water.
According to Hines, he is one of only 34 persons to survive a fall from the 81-year-old Golden Gate Bridge. Hines, who was kept afloat by a sea lion until rescuers arrived, said he is the only survivor to regain full physical mobility.
Though he still combats the negative thoughts brought on by his bipolar disorder, Hines says he has dedicated his life to helping others combat suicidal impulses and the mental health issues that bring them on.
Hines says he wants to become a role model for those who struggle with thoughts of suicide.
“The fact is, there are not a great number of role models in mental health,” said Hines, who appeared on stage with Alexa Towersey, an Australian weightlifter who speaks out against alcohol abuse.
“I will always fight the pain,” said Hines, who keeps himself trim and fit despite the spinal cord injuries he suffered as a result of his suicide attempt. “I will never die by my own hands. I deserve to live my life to its natural end.”
Meanwhile, Hines said he is in pre-production of a new documentary series called “The Journey” and is working on a comic book version of his life in cosmic and supernatural form called “Hope Dealers.”