Kevin Hines is one of only 36 people who have survived jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge near San Francisco. Of those 36, 25 are still alive and only five are able to stand or walk. The Coast Guardsmen that rescued him told him that they had pulled 26 dead bodies out of the water that year and he was the only one alive. That gave Kevin perspective.
He knew as soon as he made the jump that it was the wrong decision. All the way down he prayed to live and God answered that prayer by sending three miracles. The first was a woman on the bridge who saw him jump and immediately called for help. In the water, severely injured with broken vertebrae and centimeters away from paralysis, he had an angel in the form of a sea lion helping him stay afloat. Kevin learned this years later when someone who was listening to his story remembered being there and seeing the sea lion.
The last miracle was the coast guard who rescued him and the surgeon who performed a surgery that he had never done before and kept Kevin from losing his life or ability to walk.
Kevin shared this story at a Region 4 South Mental Health Consortium held at the Old No. 1 in Morris on May 23. He is a best-selling author, global public speaker, and award winning documentary filmmaker. Even with his success, he still struggles with mental health problems and added that everyone has mental health.
Due to an airport delay, he was only able to speak through zoom to the over 55 people in attendance from several counties in West Central Minnesota. He began by telling his story but wanted to share how everyone can help others through a mental health crisis.
Kevin and his older brother by 10 months, were born to a couple who were too poor to provide adequate life for the boys. They were eventually turned in to Child Protective Services. The boys were placed in the foster care system and bounced around from home to home. With their birth parents they lived on whatever their parents could steal and did not have nutritional meals. Due to that, both boys had health problems. In one of the foster homes his brother contracted bronchitis and died.
When Kevin was nine months old, a young woman walked into his foster home looking to adopt a little girl. She spotted Kevin and fell in love. Debra Hines and her husband, Greg, took him in and later adopted him. His health problems continued until one night Debra leaned over his crib and said “we love you, you are staying here and you are safe.” His health issues soon began to go away.
The couple also adopted two other children, a boy and a girl. Kevin’s sister told him later that she blamed herself for his attempted suicide. Ten years after his attempt she became homeless and lived on the street with her dog and cat. She would sit with a sign asking people to take care of her pets for her and no one even offered to help. Eventually someone did ask and then took her in and saved his sister’s life that day.
His brother was born weighing only two pounds and addicted to cocaine. He struggles with the health issues and addictions relating to that. Kevin stated that all three of the children are living with severe clinical depression even though growing up in the Hines home was a beautiful thing.
Hines asked the crowd if they knew anyone who died by suicide and if they blamed themselves. Nearly everyone raised their hands. He said that the people left behind need to remove that guilt from their lives. The loved one had control over their own actions and others must move forward through the pain.
However, sometimes a person is crying out for help. When Kevin was on a bus going to the Golden Gate Bridge on Sept. 25, 2000, he was crying and talking out loud to voices in his head. The only comments people on the bus made were to wonder what in the world was wrong with him? Even while leaning over the bridge preparing to jump, a woman near him asked him to take her picture but never asked to help him.
Instead they could have asked, “How can I help you? Are you okay? Or, is something wrong? Those questions could have stopped him from his suicide attempt if they would have been followed up with help.
“We are here to be keepers.” Hines stated. We need to give back to those we know and also to those we don’t know or even like.”
“This life is the greatest gift given to us besides faith.” Hines stated. “We need to be grateful for every moment we are given on God’s great earth and believe that you can survive it.”
He ended with a famous quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:
Yesterday is history,
tomorrow is mystery and
today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.