He walked, tears streaming.
For 40 minutes John Kevin Hines paced the Golden Gate Bridge crying, hoping that someone would notice- that someone would care enough to stop him and talk.
Someone did. A woman asked him to take her picture.
He took her picture, handed her the camera and leapt over the rail.
But the second his hand left the rail he changed his mind.
“I don’t want to die God, please save me,” Hines thought to himself.
John Kevin Hines told his story to an audience Friday in San Luis Obispo to show people can outlive mental illness.
“My message is one of hope and future while living with a mental illness,” Hines said. “It is one of empathy for those who have lost loved ones to suicide and equal empathy for those who have thoughts of suicide or attempts themselves.”
Hines was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder when he was 17 years old. His biological parents were mentally ill and both had substance abuse problems. After Hines was left unattended as an infant, he was taken into protective custody and placed in foster care.
A woman named Deborah Hines came to the home John was staying in and said that was, “the moment I fell in love.” He was officially adopted by Patrick and Deborah Hines when he was about 4 years old.
As a teenager he heard voices in his head and went to a psychiatrist where he was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. He was given medication and a routine: wake up, eat, take his medicine, exercise and go to sleep around the same time everyday. But Hines was a rebellious teenager. He binge drank on the weekends instead.
These actions had an effect on Hines’ mental illness.
When he was 19 he became depressed and in Sept. 2000 he started to think of suicide. He had been looking on the Internet and found a Web site about suicide and it said the best place in San Francisco was the Golden Gate Bridge.
In the the two weeks leading up to his jump, Hines fluctuated between a manic high and a depressed low.
His dad had noticed that his son’s episode was different this time. He called his psychiatrist and asked him to come see Hines. The night before Hines took the bus to the Golden Gate Bridge his psychiatrist assured his father he would come out of it in a few days.
“He was nearly dead wrong,” Hines said.
His father asked him to come with him to work that day because he was worried about him. Hines declined and said he had a math test he needed to take.
After being dropped off at school, just like any other day, he attended his English class, dropped his other classes, got Starburst and Skittles at Walgreen’s and prepared himself to take his last bus to the bridge.
After Hines had jumped over the railing, he tried to straighten his body so he hit the water feet first. He sprained his ankle and broke two bones in his lower back on impact. He sunk between 40 to 50 feet and had to swim to the surface with only his arms due to the injuries. After he reached the surface he felt something brush his leg.
He had just survived a jump from the Golden Gate Bridge and now said he thought he would be eaten by a shark.
It was not a shark, but a seal that continued to nudge him and keep him afloat until he was picked up by a Coast Guard boat about 10 minutes later.
When Hines commented on the seal in the documentary “The Bridge” he said, “Apparently it was the only thing keeping me afloat. You cannot tell me that wasn’t God, because that is what I believe. And that is what I will believe until the day I die.”
Since Hines survived his jump from the bridge in 2000, he has become a public speaker, a mental health advocate and a writer. He is currently working on a few books including an autobiography and a handbook on living mentally well. He speaks on various topics including mental health and diversity in America.
As one of 29 people who have survived jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge, Hines has told his story to more than a quarter of a million people. Less than two percent of the survivors have gained full mobility. Hines is part of this two percent. He now works to spread the message of healthy living and suicide prevention.
Hines told a story of a recent presentation he gave at a church. After Hines spoke a man in his 80’s approached him and said, “Today I was going to kill myself. I saw the flyer, I came here and I am never going to kill myself. Bye.”
This is one of the many people who have not taken their lives because Kevin lived to tell the story of his, Hines said.
“No one has to die by suicide, no where, no how.”