Suicide survivor Kevin Hines tells his story

Author in Red Deer on Thursday

In September 2000, Kevin Hines jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge in an attempt to take his own life, a leap which many don’t survive.

Flash forward to today, Hines has been presented with several awards, has done talks at various venues and in 2013 released his bestselling memoir titled Cracked Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After A Suicide Attempt.

Hines will be in Red Deer this week at an event hosted by Suicide Information & Education Services to tell his story from his infancy to now, sharing his insights into the world of mental health. Hines will be speaking at the Sheraton Red Deer Hotel June 8th.

“I’ll be talking about my life in foster care, I’ll be talking about being adopted and being given a great childhood. I’ll be speaking about how that childhood and that adolescence turned into pain after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder,” he said.

After his diagnosis and haphazardly fighting it for two years, Hines didn’t tell those around him how he was doing.

“When I was having symptoms that were very, very severe I was keeping them hidden from my family because of fear, because of shame, because of discrimination against those who live with these kinds of illnesses.”

He will also talk about how he physically survived his attempt off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco and how he survives each and every day with regular suicidal thoughts.

He will also speak about how he has utilized the tools of self awareness and an action plan for mental health to keep himself stable, aware of his disease and aware of his symptoms.

“After my attempt off the Golden Gate Bridge it was a very difficult and long road. I ended up directly after that for the next three years in three psychiatric ward stays – all involuntary, so I was forced in against my will each time,” said Hines.

It was in his third psych ward stay that he had this driven epiphany.

“An uncle of mine came to see me and said, ‘Kevin no one can do this for you, your family can help you until they’re blue in the face but until you take responsibility for the fact that you have this disease and you have to fight it tooth and nail everyday and unless you actually do utilize a treatment plan you’re not going to get better and you’re going to be coming in and out of places like these for the rest of your life.’”

Although Hines thought that was harsh to hear at first, he said it was something he really heard. And in the two month psychiatric ward stay, he started to exercise, eat healthy, educate himself on bipolar disorder and all its treatments and start to fix his terrible sleep pattern. He also took time to take part in reputable therapy.

One of his favourite stories he will tell is how he met his wife.

“It happened so that she was visiting a family member in that same psych ward when I met her and I was head over heels, a love at first sight kind of thing,” he said adding that his wife helped him in his mental health in a big way.

Hines later ended up seeing four more psychiatric hospital stays for suicidal crisis, but the difference between the first three and the last four were that he ended up turning himself into them.

“Every time I had a symptom arise, I knew what it was. Every time I had a hallucination I knew it was a distorted reality that could hurt me.”

He said it was about building this year by year resilience to stay alive most days even while still dealing with every symptom he’s ever had as he still does today.

His book Cracked Not Broken is his unconventional memoir written as a cheerleading effort for people going through pain to recognize within themselves that they too have a palliative story.

The idea, he said, is to never silence your pain and to walk forward in your pain and help people recognize that you need help, guidance and treatment.

“It’s a really positive book. There’s a lot of hard twists and turns that are really tough to read because it was a tough story, but the result at the end of that book is a 15-page piece, and that is the first iteration of these 10 steps to better my mental health and to better really anybody’s mental health.”

When it comes to his advice for others, Hines said it’s important for those who are going through mental illness to recognize they are not alone. He said it’s important to know that it’s 100% treatable and it doesn’t always mean you need to go to a clinician or psychiatrist.

“I would say to those individuals who are going through it right now, you have to recognize that today is not tomorrow and just because you’re in this much pain right now it doesn’t mean that the rest of your life won’t be beautiful. It doesn’t mean that you won’t survive or thrive because I believe that people can and will with a great deal of hard work and effort towards bettering their mental and brain health.”

He said one should never silence their pain.

“It’s yours, it’s valid, it’s real and it matters because you matter.”

Hines is currently working on a five-part book deal coming out in the next five years, with the idea of putting one out a year. He also has a new documentary film coming out at the end of the year called Suicide: The Ripple Effect.

Currently residing in Atlanta with his wife, Hines said his life is filled with love, beauty, hope, faith, family and friends.

“Even though I still go through all of these symptoms on a regular basis I’m lucky enough that I’ve built a support network around myself that has got my back in my hardest of times.”

For tickets to Hines’ presentaion, visit eventbrite.ca or suicidehelp.ca.