Story by Daniel Brosam
Kevin Hines attempted to take his own life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, but he survived. He’s now a mental health advocate who uses the experience to travel around the world to share his story in hopes to change the lives of others with brain illnesses and suicidal thoughts.
According to his official website, Hines is one of only 36 people to survive the jump off the Golden Gate Bridge and is the only survivor who is actively spreading the message of living mentally healthy.
His story began when he was only months old, suffering from neglect and abandonment from his biological parents. Only when the police were called and Child Protective Services took him away did things begin to get better – or so he thought.
“When the first three to nine months of your infancy are filled with trauma, you may have a rough go at moving forward,” Hines said.
Hines bounced from house to house, having a new mom and dad every couple of weeks until one day he was adopted by Patrick and Debra.
His new life with his new parents was great, except the fact that Hines would shortly be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, manic depression, and paranoia.
He would lie to his parents about going to community college, only to be running through the streets, away from the voices and paranoia in his head. Everything was after him, especially the mail trucks.
At night, Hines would see death himself with his skeletal hand, sharp scythe and long, black robe standing in the corner of his room, telling Hines to come home with him.
Hines battled with these diseases for years, keeping all of the pain within and never talking to anyone about what he was dealing with. It continued to get worse and worse until one day the voices told him to take his own life.
“I never wanted to die by suicide,” Hines said. “I came to a place with such terrifying mental instability where I believed I had to (die.)”
The night before he planned to end his own life, Hines wrote suicide notes to his mother, father, sister, best friend and his girlfriend and placed them underneath his pillow.
Hines awoke around 6 a.m. on Sept. 25, 2000, and went into his father’s bedroom while he lay fast asleep. He startled his father awake and his father asked, “Kevin, what’s wrong?”
“I just told him that I loved him,” Hines said.
At the time, Hines said he knew it would be the last time he ever saw his father again.
His father fell back asleep as fast as he had awoken. Hines sat down on the ground beside his father’s bed, legs crossed, rocking back and forth, and begging himself to tell his dad that he needed help.
“I would look in the mirror and feel as though I was my family’s greatest burden,” Hines said. “I wish I would have asked them the truth because they would have told me otherwise.”
The voices in his head began to argue with each other, telling Hines that death was inevitable. That he had no choice. That he must kill himself.
Hines’ father eventually awoke and told him he had a feeling that Hines should just stay with him for the day, telling him they could go to the beach, the movies, anything Hines wanted to do.
“That parental instinct was flaring, his spider sense was tingling,” Hines said. “He was spot on that something bad might happen that day.”
Hines told his father he had a math exam at his college that day and he couldn’t miss it.
His father offered to at least take him to his class. Hines agreed.
The two got into the car and Hines clutched the now suicide-note-filled book bag in his lap, not wanting his father to find out what was inside.
His father talked the entire ride to school, and Hines sat quietly.
“My father wasn’t a talker, and I wasn’t a quiet person,” Hines said.
When they arrived at the street across from the college, Hines’ father told him he loved him. Hines told his father he loved him too, gave his father a family traditional kiss on the cheek and stepped out the vehicle.
Hines said a tear rolled off his right cheek, down his chin, falling on his right boot – a vision he will never forget.
Hines stopped by the school to drop all of his classes so his parents didn’t have to do it after his death.
Afterward, he went out to the bus stop and almost immediately boarded a bus, where eventually it filled with nearly 100 people.
Hines said the voices in his head began to argue back and forth, raising to a decibel level loud enough to pierce eardrums.
“One voice was telling me not to do it, and the other was telling me I have to and that I must die,” Hines said. “That there was no option; that it was inevitable.”
The bus eventually arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge parking lot where all the passengers got off the bus, leaving Hines as the last passenger.
He walked the path along the bridge, weeping and crying until he got to the spot where he wanted to jump. Hines prepared, ran forward and catapulted himself over the bridge.
In that instant, all of the depression and paranoia vanished and Hines knew he made the biggest mistake of his life. He did not want to die.
“I was shocked into reality,” Hines said. “The psychosis, paranoia, depression and voices were all wiped off my back.”
In the four seconds it took to travel nearly 25 stories, Hines prayed that he would live.
He hit the water at 75 miles per hour, shattering multiple bones in his back.
He opened his eyes and realized he wasn’t dead. Survival mode kicked in and Hines found himself trying to stay afloat while a shark swam around him.
A passerby driving on the bridge saw Hines jump and called her friend who was a Coast Guardsman patrolling the area at the time. The Coast Guard found Hines, pulled him into the boat and took him to safety.
While full of guilt and lying in the hospital bed, Hines had time to think about what he did and how it severely impacted his family.
After his suicide attempt, Hines visited seven different psychiatric facilities within 11 years.
To this day, Hines said he continues to suffer from the hallucinations, paranoia, and depression. However, he receives help to manage his brain illnesses better and encourages people to ask for help and seek treatment.
He dedicates six to eight weeks every year to military members, he said, because of the high suicide rates across the branches and the approximately 20 veterans who end their lives every day.
“I came here today to tell my story about living with a severe brain disease,” Hines said. “I want to try to help as many human beings as possible to find a glimmer of hope so they can choose life as opposed to suicide.
“Speaking for, with, and beside the military about suicide prevention remains the highlight of my speaking career,” Hines continued. “I have great faith in our military and I’m very saddened that so many of our veteran, active duty, and reservist members are dying by suicide every day. If you find hope, hope will help you heal.”