In the fall of 2000, Kevin Hines jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge in an attempt to take his own life. However, as he stood before the Hiawatha High School students and staff, it was clear that he was there for a very important reason: hope.
Hines was born on August 31, 1981. In September 2000, he attempted to take his own life by leaping off the Golden Gate Bridge, and was one of a fortunate few to survive the fall.
According to Hines’ website, in the 18 years since his deadly attempt, he became part of the International Bipolar Foundation (IBF), the Bridge Rail Foundation (BRF), and the Mental Health Association of San Francisco (MHASF).
Hines released his best selling memoir titled, “Cracked Not Broken, Surviving and Thriving After A Suicide Attempt” in the summer of 2013. According to his website, Hines is now producing a documentary titled, “Suicide: The Ripple Effect." Hines shares his story with people everywhere to remind us that at night, there are always stars in the sky to light our way.
Opening the assembly was guest speaker Matt Runnalls. Runnalls had several friends pass away due to suicide, and after years of mental health issues as well as a period of homelessness, Runnalls faced a similar situation. Thankfully, Runnalls survived, and today he advocates for mental health awareness all over the globe through his foundation Mindfull Aus, a mental health advocacy program.
Hines began his portion of the assembly by showing a brief video, showing him talking about his journey standing in the shadow of the bridge that almost took his life. Hines then recounted, rather humorously, the events that had brought him to that bridge.
Hines has suffered a long history of mental illness, which includes bipolar disorder and auditory hallucinations. He was also bullied as a child.
At one point, Hines asked everyone in the room to raise their hands if they had ever been hurt by someone else. Every hand in the auditorium was raised. Then, he asked everyone to raise their other hand if they had ever hurt someone else with their words. Every pair of hands in the room was raised high.
Hines made this clear: It is time to break the cycle. You never know how your smile or small act of kindness can change someone’s life, or even save it.
As Hines stood on the edge of the bridge, he recalled to those gathered, he prayed someone would see his pain. But as soon as he let go of the bridge, he knew he had made a horrible mistake.
“ I knew I had to live, because if I died, no one would ever know I regretted it.”
Upon impact, Hines was plunged more than 70 feet beneath the surface. Despite having shattered his spine, he managed to swim to the surface using only his arms. It was the fastest he ever swam in his life, he explained.
As he reached the surface, Hines felt some sort of creature bob up next to him, keeping him afloat until he could be rescued. He immediately named the mysterious creature Herbert.
“I thought to myself: That must be one hell of a nice shark!”
Later, after Hines appeared on a popular news network, a letter written by a witness of the jump solved the mystery of Herbert. The man who wrote the letter saw Kevin the day he jumped, and hadn’t known if he had survived until he saw Hines on the news. However, he said that the day he witnessed the jump, he had seen a sea lion keeping the man above water until rescue crews arrived.
This miracle is what allowed Hines to be able to spread his message of healing. Fewer than one percent of those who jump from the Golden Gate Bridge survive, and even fewer are left able to walk.
Hines, however, highlighted a less noticeable, but equally important, miracle.
He asked the staff who were attending to stand up if they cared about and loved their students. Simultaneously, the entire staff of HHS stood up. Then, Hines asked the students to stand if they cared about others who were in the room.The entire auditorium was on their feet.
Together, the entirety of HHS made this promise to each other. “Be here tomorrow.”