Kevin Hines, whose story of surviving a suicide attempt off the Golden Gate Bridge in 2000 has been well publicized over the last decade, is back in the news after retelling his story at an Australian mental health intervention conference. It turns out in the years since his ordeal he's become a speaker on bipolar disorder and suicide prevention though it's his insistence that a sea lion kept him afloat and saved his life that makes for the best tabloid fodder.
Hines, who was 19 at the time of the suicide attempt, suffered severe hallucinations from bipolar disorder and psychosis, and decided to kill himself after a girlfriend broke up with him, and after life and school were becoming increasingly difficult. So he boarded a bus from City College to the Golden Gate Bridge. And though he looked for signs of someone else caring about his existence, he says after a German woman asked him to take her picture, despite tears on his face, he took a running leap and dove off the bridge.
As he's said, despite having shattered some vertebrae in the fall and being in incredible pain, he was able to swim to the surface. "I guess you would call it a mammal began swimming beneath me and I'm thinking, 'Oh man, a shark is about to devour me.'" Ultimately the Coast Guard came to rescue him, and he says that later, after appearing on a TV show about suicide, he got a call from a man claiming to have been "two feet" from him on the bridge when he jumped, and claiming to have seen the sea lion that saved him.
Hines of course was not in an especially lucid mental state the day of his suicide attempt, as he's admitted, and he says now, "There are a large number of reporters and speculators who have claimed it was really a seal, and even those who have claimed that there was nothing but me in that water... I say believe it or don’t, that’s completely up to you. I know the truth, and in this case and that is all that matters."
Over the last decade, Hines has told his story locally in order to advocate for a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate. As of a few weeks ago, bridge officials said that installation of a suicide-prevention net will occur by 2019.
Hines's book, Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt, came out in 2013, and he's now on the speaking circuit. His most recent gig, at the New South Wales Police Force Mental Health Intervention Team conference in Sydney, led to new coverage of his famous, 15-year-old story in the UK Daily Mail, MSN and elsewhere.
Now, at age 33, Hines says suicide prevention "is absolutely my life's passion and my life's work. What really I'm talking about here, it crosses all boundaries... every race, creed, colour. Everyone is touched by this somehow, some way... suicide prevention is everyone's business."
If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide: do not leave the person alone; remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt; and call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.