Tragedy struck our small town recently when a life-long daughter of our community committed suicide. No sooner had the funeral in our home town taken place when news of the loss of famous designer Kate Spade and CNN commentator Andrew Bourdain made its way around the world, both apparent victims of suicide. All three succumbed to this silent killer which knows no boundaries. Chronic depression has affected my life and affected the lives of almost every family I know in one way or another. You may have the same experience.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. On average, there are 123 suicides every day in this country. The CDC reports a steady climb of 25% in the number of incidents since 1999. There is much to share about various mental illnesses, but I write today to tell anyone and everyone who suffers from a mental illness that this disease (and it is a disease) is treatable – there is a path to mental health. Don’t give up — there is hope.
Let me tell you about Kevin Hines. In September 2000, Kevin leapt off the Golden Gate Bridge, which has claimed the lives for most of the 2000 people who have made that jump since the bridge was erected in 1937. Kevin is one of only 36 people to survive this jump. Kevin, who suffers from bipolar disorder, says as soon as he let go of the rail he regretted his decision and wanted to live.
When Kevin was in high school, he started hearing voices. His torment became so intense that he finally decided to kill himself. One day, after attending his first class, he took a bus to the bridge, crying all the way.
“I had heard that the Golden Gate Bridge was the easiest way to die. I heard that you hit the water and you’re dead,” Hines said. “And I remember picking the spot. This is the good spot. I’m not too close to the pillar. I won’t hit the pillar. I’m not too close to the land. I won’t hit the land. I’ll hit the water and I’ll die.”
Kevin stood on the bridge for 40 minutes. No one approached him to ask what was wrong. When a tourist came up and asked whether he could take her photo, Hines said that was the final straw — clear proof that no one cared. He took the picture, then jumped. Instantly, as soon as his hands left the rail, he realized he had made a terrible mistake, and came up with a plan to save his life. “It was simply this: A, God, save me. B, throw your head back. C, hit feet first,” Hines said. “And I did all of that.”
The impact was crushing hurtling Kevin 40 feet underwater. Miraculously, however, he survived. As he landed after the jump, he shattered and crushed three vertebrae. “When I resurfaced I was trying to stay afloat, thinking, ‘I am going to drown.’ As I was bobbing up and down in the water, I was saying ‘I don’t want to die, God, I made a mistake.’” Suddenly, a sea lion started pushing Kevin above the water’s surface until the Coast Guard rescued him. Doctors surgically repaired Hines’ physical injuries and after four weeks, he entered psychiatric care at St. Francis Hospital in San Francisco, the first of seven in-patient stays to deal with depression, paranoia, and hallucinations.
Today, Kevin Hines is married to the love of his life and is an international motivational speaker, on the boards of several mental health foundations, and runs his own foundation, Be Here Tomorrow, urging everyone to reach out if you see someone suffering and upset, or whom they suspect may be having suicidal thoughts. His goal in life is to help those suffering from mental illnesses and thoughts of suicide choose to live mentally well and choose life.
Kevin says, “A suicidal person needs to hear what I needed to hear. That we care about you, your life does matter, and that all we want is for you to stay,” he says. “If someone had looked at me on that bridge or on that bus and said that to me, I would have begged for help.”
Kevin believes in the power of the human spirit and in the fact that you can find the ability to live mentally well. His mantra: “Life is a gift, that is why they call it the present. Cherish it always.” You have infinite worth in this world.
For anyone struggling with suicide ideation, before you take that action, call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255. To learn more about mental illness, see Mental Health America site at https://mentalhealthamerica.net
Romans 8:32 “Neither life nor death can separate the believer from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”