“No one wants to die by suicide,” claimed suicide survivor Kevin Hines, during a speech in which he explains his personal account of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. On Thursday, September 8th, in the second floor ballroom of the Iowa Memorial Union, Kevin Hines shares with audience members his riveting life story. Diagnosed as Bi-polar with manic tendencies and depression at the age of seventeen, Hines explains how his mental health conditions and turbulent upbringing ultimately led him to one desperate day at the age of nineteen, when he attempted to take his own life.
“He was a very effective speaker,” explains Claire*, an audience member whose experience with a suicidal friend was the inspiration for her attending the speech. She was impressed with his composure and poise when talking about such a deeply personal and tough issue for a lot of people. Indeed, crying and other emotional reactions by to his story by audience members were not uncommon to witness throughout the duration of the speech.
Kevin Hines began by explaining that he was born to Martino and Marcina Jordesh, parents who he described as loving people who simply ‘didn’t know how to take care of him’ or his younger brother. Both his mother and father were diagnosed as bi-polar, and both were deeply addicted to drugs and alcohol. The earliest memories of Hine’s life were those of frequent abandonment and struggles. During his speech he described a pivotal memory of the night that he and his infant brother were left unattended on a motel bed in California while his mother and father were out looking for drugs.
The owner of the motel took notice of the children and called Child Protection Services. Hines and his brother were removed from the motel and put into the California foster care system. Their parents took many months before coming forward to claim their sons and went so far as to kidnap the two boys for a period of time. At this point, Hines’ infant brother became very ill and passed away. Hines talked of his struggles with abandonment issues and the untimely passing of his brother that continue to challenge his mental wellness to this day.
Not long after his brother’s passing, Hines was adopted by Pat and Debbie Hines, a couple from San Francisco. With a new family and a new identity, Hines grew up in what he considered a ‘normal’ family life- until he was seventeen. It was then that Kevin was diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder Type 1 with psychotic features. Hines explained that his type of mental illness was a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. For him, this imbalance led to symptoms including extreme paranoia, grandiose ways of thinking, self-harm, manic episodes, and depression. Hines said the symptoms were ‘debilitating’, despite the up to fifteen different medications that he was put on at a single time.
Hines would frequently lie about how he felt about his illness and attempted to disguise his symptoms and worsening depression from his friends and family. As a result, his parents were not aware of the severity of Hines’s mental suffering. He described himself feeling as if ‘suicide was the only option’ left for him to try, and that he believed that his friends and family would be ‘better off’ if he were dead. At age nineteen, Hines skipped school and attempted to take his own life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. He recounted his desperate journey from his school to hitting the icy Pacific water and the mental processes that drove his actions.
Today, Kevin Hines is one of the lucky few to survive jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, and one of the even fewer survivors to regain full mobility of his limbs. Hines currently tours the country sharing his story in a crusade for suicide prevention and his wish to inspire people to ‘live mentally well’. Hines stressed that something as simple as, “Are you okay?” could be enough to dissuade a person from taking his or her own life.
This idea really resonated with the audience and with young Claire as well. She appreciated the idea that anyone can make a difference, and potentially save a life. Indeed, this was the central ‘take-away’ message of the night- that anyone can help prevent suicide. You can find out more about his personal story and speaking circuit, as well as resources for information on mental health at his website: http://www.kevinhinesstory.com/.