“Are you okay?”
“Is something wrong?”
“Is there anything I can do to help you?”
Those are words Kevin Hines wanted to hear as he stood atop the Golden Gate Bridge 16 years ago. “I was there not because I wanted to die, but because I believed I had to die,” he said. He is one of less than 40 people who have survived a fall or jump from the iconic San Francisco landmark.
Hines, who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, brought his story of survival and hope to Montrose on Thursday, Nov. 17, at an event hosted by the Susquehanna County Out of the Darkness Walk.
“I know some of you are here because you are mourning the loss of someone lost to suicide,” he told the audience, reminding them to remember their loved one’s smile, embrace kind words and the love they shared.
Hines is a mental health advocate, as well as an award-winning global speaker, author and documentary film maker. In the question and answer session that followed the talk, Hines described his daily medicine and exercise regimen, as well as his diet and coping mechanisms.
He described a tumultuous infancy, born to parents that both had bipolar and substance abuse issues, and his time in the foster care system before being adopted.
Hines spoke about how bipolar disorder manifested its symptoms when he was 17, set to make his entrance onto a stage in a play. “My mom saw me falling apart and didn’t know why,” he said. “Now she knew, I needed help.”
“I didn’t want to be the kid with a mental disorder,” Hines said, “I wanted to be the wrestling state champion, the football player, but that Kevin was gone and replaced with a kid who was scared of everything and everyone.”
Hines said he hid the severity of his symptoms from everyone, including his father, with whom he was living at the time.
“We’re afraid of that word – the “S” word,” he said. “Someone doesn’t become it if you say it out loud.”
He also told those in the audience who had been impacted by a person’s suicide to not blame themselves or feel guilty because of it.
Hospitalized seven times in 11 years, Hines said those suffering from a brain disease rarely get flowers or cards while in the hospital, and even fewer visits.
“We marginalize people with mental pain,” he said. “The mental health movement sits as the civil rights movement of our time.”
“We can’t save the people we lost,” he said, “but we can be a community” where people can freely turn to those around them and say, “I need help.”
“The next time you think you can’t impact someone in pain, break down the barrier. Be a real community. Be there for one another because we are human beings and we need each other,” Hines advised the audience.
And he told them, “Be here tomorrow.”
Hines is the author of “Cracked, Not Broken: The Kevin Hines Story;” more information about him and his story is available at www.kevinhinesstory.com.
“Are you okay?”