Kevin Hines is an award-winning global public speaker, bestselling author, documentary filmmaker, and suicide prevention and mental health advocate.
But that’s not all. He is also a suicide survivor.
In 2000, when he was 19 years old, Hines jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. He had taken a bus to the bridge, and while hearing voices in his head that clamored for him to jump into the waters below, he waited for someone from the throngs passing by to stop and speak with him — to pull him out of his death wish, out of this crazy chaos.
A woman came by and asked him to take her picture — and thanked him after he did.
Then, just like that, Hines grabbed the railing of the bridge’s walkway with both hands and catapulted over the railing.
“It was an instant regret,” Hines told LifeZette. “In those seconds after I jumped, I said to myself, ‘What have I just done? I don’t want to die. God, please save me!'”
Incredibly, this man’s desperate plea to God as he fell downward fast was answered. Four seconds after he plummeted more than 200 feet down, he found himself alive and bobbing in the bay — with three shattered vertebrae.
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Injuries and all, he is one of only 34 people — less than 1 percent — to survive a fall from the Golden Gate Bridge.
“I was petrified,” said Hines. “I was trying to stay afloat and not doing too good a job of it. I am lucky that a sea lion came to my aid and kept me up above water until the Coast Guard appeared behind me.”
“I believe I lived a miracle,” Hines declared — grateful for that sea lion that kept him afloat.
His body has healed, but he still deals with the illness that drove him to the bridge in the first place: bipolar disorder. Hines is also a Catholic and a person of deep belief. “I always have been and I always will be a person of faith,” he said.
An Atlanta resident along with his wife, Margaret, Hines believes that his faith and bipolar disorder intersect. "Every night that I spent in psych wards — and I've been an inpatient 7 times for suicidal crisis — I prayed. Every night I spent in a halfway home for the mentally ill, I have prayed. I have prayed through dangerous and scary situations."
"The second halfway home I was in, I had a window in my room and it faced the moon," said Hines. "Every single morning I would wake up and thank God that I was alive, and every night I would thank God for that day, and ask Him to please bless me with another. One day at a time."
Faith plays a huge role in dealing with his illness, said Hines. "In my situation, living with the disease I live with, I have gotten through painful times with three Fs – faith, family, and friends. There was no other way for me to get through."
Hines speaks to people around the world about suicide and mental illness, offering light and hope to even the most hopeless. He is nearly finished creating a documentary entitled "Suicide: The Ripple Effect."
Even the making of the film seems to have had a providential hand guiding it. Hines and his wife — he calls her a huge factor in his mental stability — formed a film production company and were successful in creating short-form videos and public awareness campaigns in the mental health space, among other projects.
He had completed the preliminary background work for the documentary, but then was at a loss as to how to proceed.
"’I said to my wife, 'Margaret, we have to make this film!'" Hines told LifeZette. "'How will we make this happen?'"
The next day Hines got an email from film editor and documentarian John Gilbert, who has 25 years of experience in filmmaking. He had seen Hines' work on the Internet and asked him if he knew anyone he could connect with to make a documentary about suicide.
Hines answer was short and sweet. "Me!"
For Hines right now, "it's still one day at a time," he told LifeZette. "I have had 23 treatments of electro-convulsive therapy, and it has changed my life. I've lost some short-term memory because of it, but I would do it all over again if I knew I would feel this much better."
Hines still has symptoms — mania, depression, paranoia, hallucinations, and panic attacks, but he has an ability to cope now. "I work very hard for my mental well-being," he said. "I work hard for control, knowing I could spiral out at any moment."
He uses a combination of therapy, medication, sleep, and healthy eating and exercise, among other tools, to pursue good mental health every day.
"I pray every day. I feel human beings take so many little things for granted, but after what happened to me, I tend not to. I do my very best in life to not take every person I get the privilege of meeting — every place I get the honor of going to, and everything I get the grace of doing — for granted. I walk into a hotel, for example, and I'm appreciative of the people who came before me who made that hotel. I appreciate the people who set up the coffee machine."
He added, "To get to meet all the people I've met, and to hear their stories, this is very powerful to me."
Hines and Gilbert are looking for corporate sponsors for the film and partners in the mental health care space. Their deepest desire is to assist those who suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts in reaching out for life-saving help.
Hines said of the documentary, "It's not a dream. It's a vision. Dreams are for people who are sleeping."