It takes about four seconds, the nearly always fatal trip from the Golden Gate Bridge railing to the water. Yet when Kevin Hines jumped, regret came in an instant.
In his book “Cracked Not Broken, Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt” Hines wrote of being a troubled 19-year-old on the night of Sept. 24, 2000, when a “chilling and dangerously demonic voice shouted in my head … The voice that told me I had to jump.”
In his nearly 18 years of life since then, Hines has been an inspiring messenger of hope. A mental health advocate, he has shared his story around the world, and in his new documentary film “Suicide: The Ripple Effect.”
“I didn’t want to die. I believed I had to,” Hines, 36, said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Raised in the Bay Area and now living in Atlanta, Hines said he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 17 and had attempted suicide in the past, “a minor attempt.”
On the day before he jumped, “I chose the Golden Gate Bridge because of my pain,” he said. “It was impulsive.”
Today, Hines fights for his life by following a healthful regimen that includes not only therapy and medication, but exercise, adequate sleep, meditation, proper diet and sobriety. “I work tirelessly on my brain health every day,” he said. He and his wife of 11 years run the Kevin & Margaret Hines Foundation, which aims to inspire others to choose life rather than suicide and seek help with mental illness.
Hines will bring his powerful story to Snohomish County on Sept. 14 as keynote speaker at the “Building Communities of Hope Gala,” a fundraiser for Compass Heath. The event at Tulalip Resort Casino will support the northwest Washington behavioral health-care agency’s camp programs.
Compass Health serves children and teens at its Camp Mariposa and Camp Outside the Box. The camps help kids whose lives have been affected by substance abuse and behavioral health challenges.
The Golden Gate opened in 1937. By 2012, when many media outlets stopped reporting the numbers, at least 1,600 people were known to have died jumping from the bridge. There likely have been many more, never seen or found.
Since surviving what only about 30 people have, Hines has talked in interviews about his immediate regret when he attempted to take his life.
In Tad Friend’s 2003 New Yorker magazine story “Jumpers,” he said he paced and sobbed on the bridge for a half-hour before leaping — no one asked what was wrong — and even complied when a woman wanted her picture taken.
And in a 2013 San Francisco Magazine article by Scott Lucas, Hines described “a millisecond of free fall” after he went over the 4-foot railing: “In that instant, I thought, ‘What have I just done? I don’t want to die. God, please save me.’
“I was conscious the entire process. If I had lost consciousness, I would have drowned,” Hines said Tuesday, adding that he was in the water 12 minutes before being rescued by the Coast Guard. He felt what he initially thought was a shark, but now believes — and said a witness confirmed it — that a sea lion helped keep him afloat.
Hines shattered three vertebrae. He spent more than a month in a wheelchair, but is physically recovered. Surviving the jump didn’t end his struggles with mental illness, but Hines said he heeds the advice he shares with others — seek help.
In the hospital after his jump, Hines had a life-changing meeting. A Franciscan friar and hospital chaplain, Brother George Cherrie, told him “you’ve got to talk about this,” Hines said. At first, Hines thought he’d never tell what he had done. With his father’s support, he told his story to students at a school.
Since then, Hines had given hundreds of talks.
His father, Patrick Hines, co-founded the Bridge Rail Foundation, which has successfully pushed for installation of a lifesaving net on the Golden Gate. The barrier, according to The Washington Post, is expected to be completed by 2021.
Tom Sebastian, president and CEO of Compass Health, met Hines at a Washington Behavioral Healthcare Conference. This will be the second year for the gala, which in 2017 raised $158,000 for the camps. About 200 children attend the camps annually.
“We’re really excited about Kevin being here. He’s one of the world’s leading advocates for suicide prevention, to inspire hope and reduce the stigma,” Sebastian said. “I heard his story. It never left me.”
Hines’ story conveys what Sebastian sees as Compass Health’s mission: “There is hope. There is treatment. There’s a life to be lived,” he said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhl email@example.com.
Survivor to speak at Compass gala
Kevin Hines is scheduled to speak at Compass Health’s “Building Communities of Hope Gala.” A fundraiser for the behavioral health care agency’s Camp Mariposa and Camp Outside the Box, the event will be at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 14 at Tulalip Resort Casino, 10200 Quil Ceda Blvd., Tulalip. Tickets, $100 per person or $1,000 per table, available online at www.compasshealth.org/bcoh, or call 425-349-8379.