He Survived a Suicide Jump. Now He Wants to Share 3 Secrets
At 19, he jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. Today, he helps everyone he can.
Posted Sep 21, 2020
In 2000, Kevin Hines jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, with the intent to kill himself. The agonizing 250-foot drop from the walkway to the water below takes about four seconds. Since its opening in 1937, the iconic landmark has seen thousands of suicide jumpers. Out of these, only 36 have lived, leading to a survivor rate of less than 1%.
“I was depressed. I was terribly suicidal and I thought I was a burden to my family. This was the furthest thing from the truth,” he reveals in the opening scene of his new series, My Brother’s Keeper, a new playlist dedicated to mental health and young black individuals who have triumphed over great adversity. The series was recently picked up by Truli, a Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment media company who specializes in positive video-on-demand content.
In the two decades that have passed since his jump, he has directed most of his time and energy toward helping everyone he can by talking, listening, and uncovering stories that resonate. “I am beautiful and so are you. Life is the greatest gift we've ever been given or will ever be given, so live it with me and be here tomorrow and every single day after that.”
1. He regretted the jump immediately. I first heard about Kevin Hines several years ago in a New Yorker article about suicidal bridge jumpers who miraculously survived. Kevin, like many others, had second thoughts as soon as his feet left the railing. I met him in person at a film screening in fall 2019. He was on a promotional tour for The Ripple Effect, an inspirational documentary designed to educate and enlighten viewers about the struggles of suicide.
After his talk, the meet-and-greet line stretched to the back of the auditorium. Still, he took his time with everyone and made each person feel like nobody else mattered right then—a skill he may have honed from his own experiences of people not listening to his needs, desires, and fears.
Many factors contributed to his miraculous survival, including a sea lion which kept him afloat until the Coast Guard arrived. Today, he travels the world sharing his story of hope, healing, and recovery.
With over 400 videos on brain, mind, and behavioral health, his YouTube channel is filled with mental health content covering everything from meditation to medication. It Was an Instant Regret gives us an unflinching personal account of the day he attempted suicide.
“The day was September 25th of the year 2000. I was 19 and I came to a place in such immeasurable mental instability that I believed I had to die by my hands. The 24th, the night before my attempt, I was sitting at my desk writing a note to my mom and dad and I basically told them in the note how much I loved them. What I couldn't recognize was that I had value. I would find purpose. I would have hope again, but I couldn't see it back then.”
This is heavy stuff to hear, but necessary. One of the reasons he does what he does is because it is essential that we do not look away and pretend everything is fine. “At 6 in the morning, I entered my dad's room and he looked at me. And he goes, ‘Kevin what's wrong?’ I desperately wanted to tell him the truth. I never wanted to take my life that day—I believed I had to.”
2. Bullying was inescapable. It is hard to imagine that a person could show so much positivity after battling through so many challenges early in life as Kevin did. I spoke with him recently about his life experiences and current projects.
“I was born into two different worlds,” he told me, “One was severe poverty. My birth family struggled badly with substance abuse. At times, my parents would leave my older brother and me unattended as young children to go score drugs.”
The other world was an adopted world. Kevin was taken into a financially stable family with a San Francisco banker father and a trauma nurse mother. Patrick and Debi also adopted two other children. While this was a step in the right direction, bullying and racism surrounded him in the early years. “Kids would call me ‘little red n-word’ as they shoved my head in a garbage can.”
One particular story from 7th grade sticks out in his memory as an example of how even the teachers treated the white kids differently from others, especially those with a mixed ancestry of Black, Irish, and Jamaican, such as Kevin. “I was at Catholic school with my classmates Francisco and Paul. We were out in the hallway with our shirts untucked which was against the rules.”
A teacher reprimanded the boys by telling Paul, a white student, to go back to class. “Francisco—who is Filipino—and I were given detention."
He knew way back then that he wanted to make films to help people.
3. Everyone has a story to tell. Twenty years ago, Kevin Hines was a young man struggling to make sense of his world. Today, he uses his constant internal battles to fuel his desire to help others. President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper alliance in 2015 as a program of support and community for adolescents in need of mentorship. In Kevin’s series of the same name, he interviews young black individuals who have triumphed over great adversity growing up black in America. The stories—filmed a year and a half before the murder of George Floyd—are meant to motivate, excite, intrigue, entertain, and educate communities of color and beyond.
The series is meant to motivate viewers to positively impact the lives of young black individuals across this and other countries around the globe. “We could not be more excited about the momentum, energy, and enthusiasm that has been sparked by these conversations around the world," he told me.
If you are in crisis:
- Text CNQR to 741 741 (Crisis Text Line Services - USA Only)
- Call 1-800-273-8255 (Suicide Prevention Lifeline - USA Only)
- Visit suicide.org (International Crisis Information)
- To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.
©2020 Kevin Bennett Ph.D. All rights reserved.
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