In 2000, Kevin Hines jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and lived.
He came to the university Monday night to speak as part of the Wellness Speaker Series to talk to students about suicide prevention and mental health awareness.
“Are you okay? Is something wrong? Can I help you?” he asked. “Those first three questions were the only questions I wanted to hear the day I found myself standing on top of the Golden Gate Bridge walkway.”
Hines’ infancy was traumatic. He and his brother lived in San Francisco, in “a crack motel.” Their birth parents abused drugs and fed them what they could steal: Kool-Aid, Coca-Cola and sour milk. As babies, they had bruised sternums and extended bellies from the lack of nourishment.
Hines and his brother were moved into foster care and bounced around different homes. At one point, they both got bronchitis, and shortly after his brother died. Even though he was a baby, Hines developed severe abandonment issues and a detachment disorder that “would follow me until right now.”
At nine months old, he was adopted by Deborah and Kevin Hines. They gave him “the kind of childhood that most kids dreamed of but don’t get to have.”
He was lucky. However, at 17 years old he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the same disease that drove his biological parents to substance use disorder.
He started experiencing paranoia and hallucinations. He wouldn’t admit this to anyone because he knew they would think he was crazy. He buried his pain, he kept it to himself.
“People talk about how suicidal people choose,” Hines said. “They don’t choose if you’re in that much pain.”
On Sept. 24, 2000 this weight became too much to bear. At 19 years old, he sat at his desk and penned a note — a note only 20 percent of people who commit suicide write, he said.
The next day, at six in the morning, Hines went into his dad’s room to tell him he loved him. Hines’ dad told him he loved him too but went back to sleep. Hines sat in the corner of his father’s bedroom, rocking himself back and forth in tears, trying to get himself to tell his dad what was wrong with him. He said he couldn’t get the words out.
“Never be silent in your pain,” Hines said. “Your pain is real, your pain is honest and true to you. Your pain isn’t meant to be bottled and held inside, all alone.”
An hour later, his dad came into his room and told Hines to come work with him. He said they could go to the movies or the beach. Hines told his dad he had to go to city college because he had a math test.
“He knew but he didn’t know. What happened next was no fault of his,” he said. “That blame doesn’t belong to anyone who loves me or anyone I know, it doesn’t even belong to me. I knew not what I was doing on that bridge, hearing the voices telling me I had to die.”
His dad drove him to school. Hines got out of the car and went to the counselor’s office where he dropped nine of his 12-and-a-half credits, so his parents wouldn’t have to do it after he died.
He went to English, the only class he didn’t drop. He left class early and got on a train and then a bus, headed for the Golden Gate Bridge. On the bus, Hines had a breakdown. He was in the most pain he had ever been, and the one hundred people on that bus just stared at him.
“Apathy,” Hines said. “That’s society’s biggest problem.”
That day no one asked him if he was okay. His counselor didn’t ask why he was dropping his classes and no one on the bus thought to put a hand on his shoulder, to ask him if he was alright or if he was suicidal. Neither did the woman on the bridge, who asked Hines to take her picture, as he was contemplating his jump.
“Asking someone if they are suicidal — someone who is not — will not put the idea in their mind. That’s a myth,” Hines said. “Asking someone in their darkest day, ‘Are you suicidal and do you have a plan?’ actually leads to most people looking at them and saying, with tears in their eyes, ‘How did you know?’”
Hines said the second his hands left the rail, he instantly regretted his actions. The depression was wiped from his mind and all he could do was fall. 19 of the remaining majority of Golden Gate Bridge suicide survivors say they all had the same instant regret, Hines said.
“What have I just done? I don’t want to die. God, please save me,” Hines said. “And then I hit the water.”
He went down 70 to 80 feet but he opened his eyes — he was alive. He started fighting his way to the surface.
“People don’t commit suicide, they die from suicide just like any other organ disease,” he said.
Hines got the help he needed. He has been out of psychiatric wards since 2011. He attributes this to his treatment and supportive community.
“My life has changed drastically,” he said. “We are all here because we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers and you don’t have to have faith like me for that.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, the UD Help Line is available 24 hours a day and can be reached at 302-831-1001