Golden Gate Bridge jump survivor talks about mental illness

Published: Oct. 31, 2013 at 10:30 PM CDT|Updated: Nov. 1, 2013 at 9:52 AM CDT
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BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A man who once tried to kill himself by jumping from the Golden Gate bridge is sharing his story in hopes of helping people on the brink of suicide before it's too late.

Kevin Hines is now a published author and motivational speaker. He was in Biloxi on Thursday addressing a conference that focused partly on mental health. Hines talked about why he wanted to die, and why he is trying to make the most of his second chance at life.

On September 25th, 2000, it wasn't the spectacular view that led Kevin Hines to stand atop the Golden Gate Bridge. The then 19-year-old Hines had come to die.

"It was because of my mental illness. Like my biological parents, I have bipolar disorder," said Hines. "It's a very severe form and it nearly destroyed me. Because it got me to such a terrible place in my mind, I couldn't see any other option but dying."

Hines tells audiences around the country he feels blessed to be one of only 33 people to survive a jump from the Golden Gate bridge. He's grateful to be part of two percent of survivors who regained full mobility. He now travels with a message encouraging anyone with thoughts of suicide is to get help right away.

While he was in the hospital recuperating, Hines said a priest asked him to speak to a group of children about his experience once he was released. He was reluctant, but his father insisted.

"When I spoke my first speech at my school I attended as a kid and I spoke to 120 kids," Hines said. "Seventh and eighth graders. I got 120 letters in return. And in those 120 letters in return there were several that were actively suicidal and those got help. When those two things happened, I knew I had to do this for the rest of my life."

Hines said he is troubled by the way mental illness is being portrayed these days in the media.

"One of the things that is most commonly misunderstood with mental illness is that all people with mental illness are violent towards others," Hines said. "I think the number is less than two percent. Yet in the media today, sadly, we see story after story of someone with a potential mental illness who has allegedly committed a violent act. That makes it look to public like that's all of us when in fact it's the minority. The majority are fighting to live mentally well, and that's the story that needs to be told."

I asked Hines about that day on the bridge. What was he thinking in those last few moments before he jumped?

"I thought nobody cared," he said. "I was wrong."

Hines spoke at the Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Conference.

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