As executive director of the suicide prevention and awareness organization Davidson LifeLine, Lynn Hennighausen was invited to go through behavioral health training with Carolinas Healthcare System.
Hennighausen said she was particularly moved by three videos she saw in the portion of the “Mental Health First Aid” training that dealt with youths. The segments involved Kevin Hines, who at age 19 survived a suicide attempt when he jumped from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
“His story was so touching to me,” Hennighausen recalled. “It brought tears to my eyes, and that doesn’t happen to me very often.”
Davidson LifeLine was created in 2012, when Davidson experienced five suicides. Two of the deaths involved teens, and youth have been a priority in the group’s training on recognizing suicide warning signs and guiding those at risk toward help.
“I told our board, ‘We should bring this guy here to speak,’” Hennighausen said.
Hines, now 33, wrote a best-selling memoir in 2013 and was being represented by a publicity agency, and that’s as far as Davidson LifeLine got in its attempts to bring him here. That was until several months ago, when Hennighausen got a phone call from Hines himself, who said he no longer was using the agency but had gotten the word that Davidson LifeLine had reached out to him.
“He said, ‘Are you still interested in having me come?’” Hennighausen recalled.
Hines was 17 when he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Two years later, Hines stood on a railing of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, looked down at the water 220 feet below and decided he would rather die than live with his psychosis
It was Sept. 24, 2000, and it was supposed to be the last day of Hines’ life. But from the time Hines plunged into the chilly San Francisco Bay, he began to experience a rebirth he never could have imagined when the voices in his head tried to talk over each other.
An estimated 99 percent of known jumpers from the Golden Gate Bridge don’t survive. Hines shattered multiple vertebrae, but the U.S. Coast Guard pulled him from the water, alive. His rescue from the bay was the first step not just in a physical recovery, but an emotional one, as well.
Hines has made it his mission to offer hope and inspiration to others facing behavioral health issues. In conjunction with Davidson Lifeline, Hines will bring his message to Davidson for a series of events Oct. 11-12.
’Cracked, not broken’
Fourteen hours of surgery followed Hines’ rescue from the water. During his long hospital stay, a chaplain encouraged Hines to talk about his experience. Following in-patient psychiatric treatment, Hines went to church, where a priest told him he should speak to local middle-schoolers about his experiences.
Hines was up until 3 a.m. writing the speech he would give to 120 students that day in 2001. He said was unsure if it had helped until he received letters from each student, many of whom opened up about their own struggles.
Hines said the experience taught him he could help by speaking out, even as he continues to face his own challenges. He’s been hospitalized in a behavioral health unit seven times since his jump, most recently in 2011.
But he also got married, and in 2013 wrote his memoir, “Cracked Not Broken: Thriving Following a Suicide Attempt,” which chronicled how, with the help of family and medical professionals, he took on his psychological challenges and made it his “life’s work to educate people all over this great country, and around the globe, to prevent suicide and understand mental illness.”
But Hines is always careful not to make his speaking engagements entirely about him. He invites audience members to share their personal stories.
That’s no surprise to Hennighausen, who has had several phone calls with Hines.
“It’s like sitting with a friend at Summit (Coffee),” she said of the conversations.
Hennighausen is hoping that some of the conversations with Hines Oct. 11-12 in Davidson will be life-changing.
John Deem is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to go?
Author and mental health advocate Kevin Hines will be in Davidson Oct. 11-12. Here are the scheduled events:
▪ On Sunday, Oct. 11, from 5-7 p.m. at Summit Coffee, Hines will be available for informal conversations.
▪ On Monday, Oct. 12, from 4:30-5:30 p.m., Hines will sign copies of his best-selling memoir, “Cracked Not Broken: Thriving Following a Suicide Attempt,” at Main Street Books.
▪ Also 7-8:30 p.m. Oct. 12, bHines will describe his experiences for a small audience in the Lilly Gallery of the Chamber’s Building at Davidson College. The event is free, but seating is limited. To reserve a spot, go to davidsonlifeline.org.