We caught up with Kevin Hines, one of only 34 survivors of a Golden Gate Bridge suicide attempt, at the Health Technology Forum in San Francisco. Kevin was there because he had just won second place in the Health Technology Forum code-a-thon for his app, tentatively titled Living Mentally Well, that enables people to follow 10 steps to better mental health.
Kevin Hines has a mental illness: bipolar affective disorder (or bipolar for short). Bipolar disorder is a condition in which a person has periods of depression and of mania (periods of extreme happiness and hyperness). You can learn more about symptoms of bipolar on the PubMed Health website. People with bipolar disorder are at high risk of suicide.
Unfortunately for Kevin, he has a severe case of bipolar disorder. Being fed up with life and not wanting to live with bipolar disorder, Kevin decided to end everything once and for all by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Kevin realized seconds after he jumped that he had made, as he says in the video, “the biggest mistake I ever made…I thought it would be my last mistake.” In mid-air with nothing but a 245-feet (4 second) dive into the cold, black waters of the Pacific Ocean, there was nothing Kevin could do except to fall to what he thought was certain death. He described going down into the water 70-80 feet before struggling to come to the surface. As he was catching his breath and treading water, he felt a living creature beneath his legs. His first thought was that it was a great white shark and that it was going to eat him. But, in nothing short of a miracle, it turned out to be a sea lion swimming beneath him and helping him to stay afloat until the coast guard boat arrived.
Over the next nine years, Kevin was in and out of psych hospitals because he “has chronically suicidal thoughts”. Eventually, he met Daniel J. Reidenberg, PsychD and Executive Director of SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) who worked with him to implement what he calls his ten steps to living mentally well. He practices these steps religiously, including exercising, eating healthy (most days), developing regular sleep patterns, taking multivitamins and using light therapy. He also has taken control of his disease by keeping himself educated about it and reading what is new in the field of bipolar. Keeping his daily routine structured helps him to control, but not eliminate symptoms. But because he is now so much more self-aware, he knows when to reach out for help in very specific ways, including asking to be hospitalized when he thinks his risk of suicide is too great to handle as an outpatient. As I mentioned above, Kevin is developing an app, tentatively titled Living Mentally Well, that will incorporate what he has learned in the hope that it will be able to help other people with bipolar disorder and suicidal ideation.
A second chance at life
Empowered by his second chance at life, Kevin now travels the world teaching other people about the importance of suicide prevention and mental health awareness, particularly bipolar disorder. Due to his profound personal experiences, tenacity and drive, Kevin has become one of the most sought after speakers of these subjects in the U.S.
When asked if he was cured of his disorder, Kevin responded, “I’m in recovery every day. And it’s a step-by-step process and they’re all baby steps.” Inspired by his story?
Want To Learn More?
Check out his website, Kevin Hines Story, his book Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt
And, watch Kevin tell his story in our video below: