WSW: Survivor of a Suicide Attempt, Now a Mental Health Advocate
As Kevin Hines struggled to stay afloat in San Francisco Bay he felt something brush by his leg. Hines thought jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge hadn't killed him, and now a shark was going to eat him.
But Hines survived because, he was told later, that a sea lion (not the shark he thought brushed his leg) had kept him above water until a Coast Guard boat rescued him. Hines was 19 years old at the time, and was suffering from bi-polar disorder when he decided to end his life. But against the odds Hines lived to tell his story, and now travels the country to promote mental health awareness and suicide prevention. He is the featured speaker for the annual "Respecting Differences" program Thursday at Chenery Auditorium. Hines will also address the annual Mental Health Breakfast on Friday held by Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
"I am in essence, in recovery forever."
Hines says time, surgery and some staples in his side healed his physical injuries. But he says the mental health issues that led up to his suicide attempt are still there, and will be for the rest of his life. "I am in essence, in recovery forever."
As he travels the country, Hines spreads the message that people need to seek help for mental illness, and that families and friends have to know what to look for. Hines says he wishes he had been more honest with his family. He was ashamed of his suicidal thoughts. But Hines says the most important message is "It was a mistake, it's the greatest regret of my life."
One of the biggest misconceptions, says Hines, is thinking that our brain is not like the rest of our bodies. He says in reality it controls everything else. Hines says he often hears from young people who have been diagnosed with a mental disorder, but their family still doesn't believe that it's real. Hines says the idea that people with mental illness are a danger to others bothers him most of all. He says in reality statistics show that less than 6% of people with mental health disorders are violent towards others. Hines says most people with mental health disorders are tying to live a good life and aren't a threat to others.