Suicide Survivor Inspires Teens and Adolescents. There’s Power in Sharing
The right words really can make a difference. They can save lives. Knowing what he wished someone had told him when he was desperate and obsessed with suicidal thoughts, a man that survived a horrific attempt to end his life has a very different kind of goal these days. Now he travels the world, sharing his remarkable tale of recovery with young people. An old saying is that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Meaning, there is no turning back from that final step. Hearing this story of regret may offer some troubled teens, adolescents, and young adults the sense of hope they need.
The second that Kevin Hines jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge, he regretted it. Hines told PEOPLE magazine, “I said to myself, ‘What have I done? I don’t want to die, God please save me. The moment I hit free fall was an instant regret – I recognized that I made the greatest mistake in my life and I thought it was too late.”
A Second Chance
Unlike most Golden Gate bridge jumpers, Hines survived his leap with a mindboggling stroke of luck. When Hines hit in the water after a 220-foot drop, the impact broke bones. With the injuries he sustained, he suddenly faced a new dilemma- he realized he was going under in the San Francisco Bay. “When I resurfaced and I was trying to stay afloat, I was thinking, ‘I am going to drown,’” he remembers. “As I was bobbing up and down in the water, I was saying, ‘I don’t want to die, God I made a mistake.’”
The Idea that Changed His Life Forever
Hines told PEOPLE magazine a sea lion pushed him up, keeping him above the water’s surface until the Coast Guard came to his rescue and pulled him out of the water. After he recovered from surgery at a local hospital, Hines began psychiatric treatment for depression, paranoia, and hallucinations. During his time in the hospital, Hines met a priest who urged him to share his story and help others.
Hines understands just how fortunate he was. He knows that many teenagers who attempt suicide never get a second chance. After it was completed in 1937, more than 1,700 people have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. According to Robert Olson at The Centre for Suicide Prevention in Calgary, Canada, only 25 people are known to have survived such a fall. Olson says jumping from the Golden Gate is an extremely lethal method of suicide. The average survival rate of bridge suicide attempts is 15 percent, but for the Golden Gate Bridge, it’s merely 4 percent.
Just seven months after his suicide attempt, Hines spoke to more than one hundred seventh and eighth graders. “I was freaking out,” he admits. “I was a mess.” But two weeks later, some of the kids sent him letters. Several said that because of him, they had gotten the kind of help and treatment they needed to deal with the emotional pain that consumed them. “A story helped them decide to be honest about their pain,” Hines says. “When that happened, I said to my father, ‘Dad, we have to do this, any way, anywhere we can.’ This is how it all started.”
Hines was only 19 when he took a bus to the Golden Gate Bridge that fateful day. Before he leaped, he says he was walking back and forth on the Golden Gate’s pedestrian walkway, crying and upset. Despite the voices in his head that were telling him to die, he says he desperately hoped that someone would try to talk him out of what he intended to do. “I said to myself, ‘If one person comes up to me and says, ‘Are you okay? Is something wrong? Can I help you?’ I was going to tell them my whole life story and they were going to make me safe.”
It’s not very logical,” he admits. “The nature of a suicidal person is to be irrational.”
“I could not control myself.”
As much as he wanted help, for Hines, the desire to die was still overwhelming. “The voices in my head were so great, so loud, that you couldn’t fathom them unless you were inside my head, screaming, ‘You must die, jump now,’” he says. “It was the most horrid, emotional, turmoil I’ve ever experienced.”
After he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Hines says his journey to recovery has required an effective combination of therapy, medication, exercise, and other activities. Like sharing his incredible story with troubled teens. “My goal is to try to instill hope in one individual,” Hines told PEOPLE. “So that one individual says, ‘Maybe I can stay here, maybe there are tools to fight this.'”
Along the way, Hines has prevented several deaths. This list includes people he’s met in person. One of these is Melinda Wallace. At the time of her third suicide attempt, Wallace asked Hines to tell her husband that she didn’t blame him for her suicidal thoughts. “Kevin knew what I was up to,” Wallace says in his film. Hines notified the police and contacted her family. “I appreciate it,” Wallace says now. “But I was a little bit mad at the time. He helped save my life that night. And he continues to when I have a difficult day and I need to share this burden with someone who can handle it.”
A Helping Hand
Hines says that he still wrestles with paranoia and suicidal thoughts, but he hopes that by sharing his story, he will inspire others to reveal their troubles and like him, come to the realization that they can help themselves, and know that recovery is possible. Hines encourages everyone that sees someone suffering as he was that day on the Golden Gate Bridge to reach out and try to help.
Hines feels that suicidal teenagers need to hear what he longed to hear in his distressed state of mind. They need to know, “That we care about you, your life does matter and that all we want is for you to stay. If someone had looked at me on that bridge or that bus and said that to me, I would have begged for help.” He urges anyone that is battling suicidal thoughts to call the national suicide prevention hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
Teens at Risk
The risk of suicide among young people may be far more common that most people realize. The Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System, a survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that includes national, state, and school-based samples of 9th through 12th grade students offers these unsettling facts:
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college-age youth and ages 12-18.
More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, combined.
Each day in our nation there are an average of over 4,800 attempts by young people in grades 7-12.
Four out of Five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs
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