***Trigger warning: The content in this episode deals with suicide. If you or anyone else you know is dealing with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.***
On September 24, 2000, 19-year old Kevin Hines attempted to take his own life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Miraculously, he survived the 220 ft jump thanks to a series of contributing factors, which included a sea lion keeping him afloat. Today, Kevin is an award-winning mental health activist, best-selling author, and documentarian. Listen to learn more about Kevin’s story of hope, healing, and recovery.
Kevin Hines is an American suicide prevention speaker, who gained nationwide fame in the United States for surviving an attempt at taking his own life by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California
Speaker 1: All Inclusive, a podcast on inclusion, innovation and social justice, with Jay Ruderman.
Jay Ruderman: Hi, I’m Jay Ruderman and this is All Inclusive, a podcast focused on inclusion, innovation and social justice. Since 1937 almost 2,000 people have tried to take their own life by jumping [00:00:30] from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. On September 24, 2000 one of those attempts was a 19 year old Kevin Hines. A couple years prior, Kevin had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was dealing with serious sycosis at the time of his suicide attempt. He could not stop listening to voices inside his head that told him to take his own life. Miraculously he survived the 220′ [00:01:00] jump thanks to a series of contributing factors which included a sea lion keeping him afloat until the Coast Guard arrived. Kevin is now a mental health activist and best selling author who travels the world telling a story of hope, healing and recovery. Kevin, welcome to All Inclusive.
Kevin Hines: Thank you for having me, Jay. Glad to be here.
Jay Ruderman: So let’s start on the day that you thought was going to be the end of your life. Tell me about [00:01:30] your thoughts on the morning of September 24, 2000, right before you took the bus to go to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Kevin Hines: Well, that morning, I believed I was useless. I felt I had no value and I thought I had to die. I thought that suicide was my only answer. I was wrong, but I couldn’t see it. And it led me to a devastating place. [00:02:00] I was in what I termed to be lethal emotional pain and that pain was so overwhelming I wanted that pain to end. I always ask people, what is that you want to happen when you find yourself in excruciating physical pain, what do you want that pain to do? And the overwhelming answer is, stop, go away or end. And that’s the same for brain pain, and that’s what led me to the Golden Gate Bridge in an attempt to take my life. I was living with severe bipolar disorder [00:02:30] and I thought that that was my only option and I wish I knew back then what I know today, that I was wrong.
Jay Ruderman: So just for those listeners who may not know what bipolar disorder is, can you just give us a few words of what it is and how it affected you?
Kevin Hines: Sure.
Jay Ruderman: Or how it does continue to effect you.
Kevin Hines: Absolutely. And it does. So think of sky rocketing manic euphoric natural highs, and then once you go up, you must come [00:03:00] down. So coming crashing down into this dark abyss of depression and pain. That was and is sometimes the norm for me. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder, a brain imbalance where you have manic highs and depressive lows, but when you have psychotic features with bipolar disorder, like me, you’re type one, you also have hallucinations, auditory and visual, panic attacks, and paranoid [00:03:30] delusions. And so I was dealing with all of this simultaneously before I went to the Golden Gate Bridge to try to take my life. And it was just completely mind numbing. And it all combined let me to the GGB to try to take my life.
Jay Ruderman: So tell me about the bus ride over there. You deliberately got on a bus. You wrote a suicide note to [00:04:00] your family and loved ones. Tell me about the ride and what you were thinking at the time.
Kevin Hines: It was on that bus that I became what suicidologists, the people that study suicide prevention, call ambivalent. I desperately wanted to live, but I believed I had to die, and those are two categorically different things. And on that bus ride I said to myself in my head, if one person says, “Hey kid, are you okay? [00:04:30] Brother is something wrong? How can I help you,” or a variation of the three, I would have told them everything and begged them to save me.
But instead on that bus, as I cried profusely, as I yelled allowed on a crowded bus filled with people about my inner pain, the only person to react to me was a man to my left who said to the man next to him, “what the hell’s wrong with that kid,” with a smile on his face. Complete apathy. And [00:05:00] this is actually very common, this is then scenario with suicide ideation or suicide attempts, is one person says or does this I will. If one person says or does this, I won’t die today. And my reaction was that. If one person says are you okay, I would have told them everything and pleaded with them to save me.
Jay Ruderman: So I know we’re going to talk about the details of what happened in your attempted suicide and [00:05:30] let’s just maybe stop for a second, because I know this can be triggering for people that are listening that maybe thinking about suicide. What would you say to them regarding where they are right now and what they can do to get help?
Kevin Hines: I would say that whatever you’re going through right now. Whatever you’re dealing with, and if you have suicide ideations, stop. Take a breath. Take [00:06:00] another breath. Pause for a moment and recognize that we’re all going to pass away some day. None of us are immortal. Give yourself time, plus hard work for things to change. I have now lived 20 years past my suicide attempt, never again attempting to take my life by working around some tools and techniques for better brain mind behavior, mental health and physical health and well-being. [00:06:30] If you work hard with your mental health you can survive mental pain, and suicide never has to be the solution to your problem because it is the problem. So if you recognize that and you find yourself to be self-aware with your struggle, you can always survive that struggle. It’s a matter of perspective and perception. And so I work really hard with educating myself as to my diagnosis, exercising [00:07:00] every day, eating healthy foods, using coping strategies, using various forms of treatment and therapy and treatment, [inaudible 00:07:09] proven forms of therapy and treatment.
I put together a 10 step plan of better brain health, better brain well-being and I do it every day and it keeps me here. I live with regular thoughts of suicide, yet I’ve never again attempted to take my life because of these techniques. And it’s something that are science [00:07:30] backed, evidence informed, proven tools for better brain health and I really built it myself for myself and I shared it with the world. You can find my plan on YouTube.com/KevinHines, under a video called the Art of Wellness 2.0. And it can help you stabilize your wellness. And it’s helping thousands of people around the world from as far as Peru, Africa, China, Japan, all across Europe and Canada. [00:08:00] I wanted to help people on your show Jay, because it’s something that we can all strive for. If we’re struggling, we can defeat that struggle one day at a time. You don’t have to think about the future, you don’t have to dwell on the past. You have to focus on right here, right now and the being here tomorrow.
Jay Ruderman: So I think one thing I grew up with the term of someone committed suicide, but I think it’s accepted [00:08:30] now to say someone died by suicide. That suicide is not something that you’re intentionally making a decision to do, that it is sort of controlling you. That-
Kevin Hines: Yep, it compels you. You’re compelled to take your life by voices in your head or mental struggle or trauma. And the reality is, staying committed is like someone’s committing a crime [00:09:00] or adultery or something. It’s just an old hat way of saying it. Died by suicide, just like someone would die of any other organ disease is the right way to say it. And language does matter. It does matter. So we say died by suicide now because it’s just a way to respect the person that passed and the people that have thought of attempting and let them know that they’re not alone. That they’re survivorship [00:09:30] matters and that they matter.
Jay Ruderman: … So if someone desperately needs help and they’re listening to this, there is a national suicide hotline. The number is 1-800-273-8255. They can always reach out to the national suicide hotline. I understand from you there’s another method that may be quicker that people can also reach out to if they’re in a [00:10:00] place where they’re thinking about suicide.
Kevin Hines: Yes. You can text right now C-N-Q-R to 741741. And that CNQR stands for something. It stands for courage to talk about your mental health. N stands for normalize the conversation of it. Q stands for ask the questions, are you thinking of killing yourself, have you made plans to take your life and do you have the means? Because that doesn’t put the thought in someone’s mind, it gives them permission to speak on their pain [00:10:30] and a pain shared is a pain halved. And R stands for recovery, living proof. So CNQR to 7471741, the crisis text line. Someone will be with you in seconds and you will get the help you need to stay here. We’ve had active rescues from all around the country that CNQR key word is something we came up with as part of our concur collective.
Jay Ruderman: So let’s get into September [00:11:00] 24th. You talked about taking the bus ride and crying profusely and no one really paying attention. And just as a human being living in our society in today’s age, I think people are just in their own worlds and they’re not really attuned to those around them, especially people that need help. They’re sort of avoiding those types of conversations, which is unfortunate, but that’s something you [00:11:30] experienced and that was something you were looking for. I remember an article where you talked about getting to the Golden Gate Bridge and looking for people and walking up and down and looking for people to stop you, and even a woman who asked to take pictures, which you thought was a little bizarre. But I guess you got to the point where no one really stopped and asked are you okay.
Kevin Hines: Yeah, [00:12:00] besides on that bus, being on the walkway to the Golden Gate Bridge, a woman asked me to take her picture with her camera. Several times I did and she walked away and it was at that moment I though, nobody cared. And you see that was the furthest thing from the truth, Jay. Everybody cared. Every member of my family, everyone of my friends, my acquaintances would have been there to tear me from that rail to safety, because of how much they cared. My brain wasn’t allowing me to care. My brain was trying to kill me as I desperately tried to cling to life. [00:12:30] And like you said earlier, it wasn’t a decision. It wasn’t like I decided to go take my life like I would decide to have this cup of tea. It was a compulsion.
I felt I had to die. And that feeling is so overwhelming when it happens. So it’s so back breaking, no pun intended, because I did break my back off the Golden Gate Bridge, but it was terrible. [00:13:00] I just wish, I wish I had the ability that day to tell my father that morning what I was truly feeling. The one thing that’s come out of this, Jay, that’s been positive is that today when I become suicidal, the first thing I do is tell anyone around me what’s going on so that they can help keep me safe. And that’s usually my wife now. Sometimes it’s my father or my friends, [00:13:30] but usually my wife. And we assess. Is this an acute suicide ideation. Is this something I need to go to the hospital for, or is this just something where I need to talk my way out of it until I feel better. And usually it’s the latter right now. And I get to a safe place.
Jay Ruderman: So you’re on the Golden Gate Bridge. Your hands [00:14:00] are on the rail. You vault yourself over the rail, what were your thoughts in that second, millisecond as soon as your hands left the rail?
Kevin Hines: In that millisecond my thoughts were these, “What have I just done? I don’t want to die. God please save me.” I had an instantaneous regret from my action and it’s 100% recognition, I just made the greatest mistake of my life, it was too late. [00:14:30] And as I fell, I thought, “This is it. This is where I go.” I hit the water. I shattered my T12, L1, L2 lower vertebrae into shards like glass. I missed severing my spinal cord by two millimeters. I went down 70 feet beneath the water’s surface. I opened my eyes. I swam toward the surface. I got closer and closer to the lit circle of water above me and I thought, “I’m not going to make it and this is where I go.” [00:15:00] And that’s when I said to myself, “Kevin you can’t die here. If you die here, no one will ever know you didn’t want to. No one will ever know you knew you made a mistake.”
I broke the surface of the water, bopped up and down in it and I prayed, God please save me. I don’t want to die. I made a mistake, on repeat and he heard me. At that moment something began to circle beneath me. Something large and very slimy and very very alive. [00:15:30] I’m like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I didn’t die jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge and a shark is going to eat me. But it turned out it was no shark, it was in fact a sea lion and it was keeping me afloat until the Coast Guard boat arrived behind me. The Coast Guard boat arrived, the sea lion takes off. These officers pull me onto a flat board, put me in a neck brace and start asking questions, and that’s how my life was physically saved from the waters.
And then in the hospital, one of the foremost back surgeons [00:16:00] on the West Coast, who wasn’t supposed to be there that day happened to stay to do my surgery, the first and only of this particular kind, he invented it for me, saved me the ability to stand, walk, and run. Of the 39 Golden Gate Bridge jump survivors, and there’s only 39 in the last 85 years of that bridge being opened, whereas nearly 3,000 or higher, people have died there. The highest point for suicide in the world. Of the 39 that have survived only five of us get to stand, walk, and run. [00:16:30] They call us the most exclusive survivors club in the world. There’s a book in the same name about our story. So when I say it get to be here, I really do.
Jay Ruderman: And what is it about the Golden Gate Bridge? I mean, so many thousands of people have taken their lives there. Is it the height? Is it the accessibility? I mean, why did you choose that location?
Kevin Hines: People choose the Golden Gate Bridge because of an ease of access to lethal means. [00:17:00] It’s a four foot rail, it’s simple. If you’re tall enough, you can fall over. It’s not because it’s a beautiful view. It’s not because it’s a fantastic bridge. It’s because it’s easy. And one of the things we’re doing right now, that we’ve fought for the last 20 years is raising a net at the Golden Gate Bridge. My father founded the Bridge Rail Foundation in 2006 after the film The Bridge came out, by Eric Steel. [00:17:30] And we have legislatively fought for the nets to be put in place and right now they’re being constructed and as of 2023 when the nets are finished, not one more beautiful soul will ever again die off the Golden Gate Bridge and it will then become the largest and brightest beacon for suicide prevention all around the world.
Jay Ruderman: That’s beautiful and thank you for your role in that. Your story is really miraculous. There are so many things that happened from [00:18:00] you not hitting the water head on, to being able to come to the surface, to a sea lion floating beneath you. And I know there’s been many stories of sea mammals helping humans in distress, but as I understand, you didn’t understand it was a sea lion at that time. It was only later that you found out that it was a sea lion, because someone had taken a picture.
Kevin Hines: Yeah, so [00:18:30] I truly thought it was a shark and I was literally punching it, but it wouldn’t go away. And it’s just bumping me up. And no longer am I wading in the water, I’m lying on top of it being kept buoyant by this creature. Having it circle around underneath me. And I was on a television program a year later promoting a suicide prevention campaign in San Francisco and man named Morgan wrote into the show and said, “Kevin, I’m so very glad you’re alive. I was standing less than two feet [00:19:00] away from you when you jumped. It’s haunted me until today. By the way, there was no shark like you mentioned on the show, but there was a sea lion that people above looking down, believed it to be keeping your body afloat until the Coast Guard boat arrived behind you.”
Jay Ruderman: Do you remember when you were picked up by the Coast Guard, which I think was also a miracle, because a woman immediately called the Coast Guard when you were in the water.
Kevin Hines: Yes. A woman who saw me go over the rail at the moment of my attempt, had a car phone, not a cell phone, a car phone [00:19:30] and called her friend in the Coast Guard. And the reason the Coast Guard got to my position within less that the time that I would set in hypothermia and drown was because of that woman’s phone call.
Jay Ruderman: And do you remember what that Coast Guard officer said to you?
Kevin Hines: Yes. There were several officers on the boat that pulled me out of the water and one of them said, “Kid, do you know what you just did?” And I said, “Yeah, I just jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge.” I was fully conscious and aware. And they said, “Why?” And had no reasonable answer. I said, “I don’t know, I thought I had to die today.” And the officer leaned in and said, “Son, [00:20:00] do understand how many people we pull out of these waters that are already dead?” And I said, “No, and I don’t want to know.” And he said, “I’m going to tell you anyway.” He said, “Young man, this unit alone has pulled out 26 dead bodies from these waters and one live one, you.” And that gave me a great deal of perspective.
Jay Ruderman: Do you consider yourself a religious person, Kevin?
Kevin Hines: I am a religious person. I’m a Catholic. I’ve been a Catholic my whole life. The only time I lost my faith in God was when I lept [00:20:30] off that bridge, but I always say, no pun intended, I found him on the way down.
Jay Ruderman: Right. Right. And you must see everything that happened to you and your survival and becoming a spokesman for suicide prevention to have some sort of divine intervention in your life.
Kevin Hines: Personally I feel that I do have that, and that’s my prerogative. I’ve always felt that way. I don’t push that on anybody. There’s people that don’t believe, that’s fine. [00:21:00] But this is something that all the things came into play to save my life. It wasn’t just one sequence, it was the woman’s phone call, it was the sea lion, it was the Coast Guard, it was the doctor at the hospital staying for as long as he did and doing my surgery. Had all those miracles not occurred, my life would be a lot different or I wouldn’t exist.
Jay Ruderman: Can you tell me what it was like seeing your dad? I mean, he was the first person [00:21:30] to show up at the hospital from your family, and what that was like?
Kevin Hines: It was so rough, because my father is arguably the man that loves me the most in the entire world. And he was devastated. And this is a man who in 19 years of knowing him up to that point … I was 19 when I jumped … I’d never seen the man cry. Not a teardrop from his eye, not a hard time, [00:22:00] not a visible struggle from his face. A tough sunset Irishman. He and Debbie Hines adopted me and made me their son. He was just the toughest SOB I ever knew. Like the drill sergeant who was never in the military, that kind of guy. And he walks into my room and I remember looking up at him in my bracing structure that was keeping me together and he looked down at me and he goes, ” [00:22:30] Kevin, I’m sorry.” I said, “No dad, I’m sorry.” And waterfalls just pouring from his eyes. It just poured from his eyes. And that was really difficult for both of us, because he wasn’t one to every show emotion.
Jay Ruderman: Kevin, many of us, I have four teenagers and we worry about them every single day. And with social media and what’s out there on [00:23:00] the internet and so much time alone on their phones, I worry about my kids all the time. And I’m sure there are many listeners have relatives and they’re like, “Yeah, I’m just, I’m worried.” And what do you do? What are the steps we need to take to make sure … I mean, because if a child of mine doesn’t feel well, has a stomach ache, breaks a bone or whatever, I’m going to take him to the hospital. There’s so much stigma [00:23:30] around the issue of mental health. What do you do? You think someone’s just not right, I mean, what’s your advice?
Kevin Hines: Yeah. So for parents all around the world, you need to ask the questions. You need to be the type of parent that digs deep and asks the hard questions. You need to start off with, “Hey guys, let’s all have a conversation at the dinner table and let’s be honest about what we’re going through. First of all, have you guys dealt with any students [00:24:00] at your school or in your experience that have suicidal ideation? Have you ever had thoughts of killing yourself yourselves? Have you ever made plans to take your life? Do you have the means?” Ask those direct questions. They don’t put the thought in someone’s mind. They give them permission to speak on their pain. As I said before, a pain shared is a pain halved.
The fact is that more people give truthful answers to the question are you thinking of killing yourself, then the question are you thinking of suicide, because of the taboo on the word suicide. The crisis [00:24:30] text line algorithm has determined that. It’s fascinating that language really does matter. Just like when we say died by suicide versus commit. And the reality is, if you’re willing as a parent to have that open ended conversation, but with a lack of judgment afterwards, whatever the answer may be, and with a lack of anger afterwards, whatever the answer may be. And an understanding and an empathetic tone and kind [00:25:00] eyes and saying, “Look, we care about you so much. We love you so much, unconditionally so, and we want to make sure you’re safe every day.” And so many people around the world are taking their lives. More young African-American children ages five and up are taking their lives than ever before in this country. It’s terrifying. So we need to be able to ask our kids, no matter what age they are, about these questions so they’re aware of it.
I was just in Massachusetts with my God children and one [00:25:30] of them who’s 10 has a student in his class who’s currently suicidal and he doesn’t know what to do. And so we talked about that and we had an open conversation. And one of them, is six, and we had a conversation with her about what this means. And you know what, it was terrifying to know that she understand what we were saying. So they’re capable. They’re intelligent. They’re aware. We have to have the conversation.
Jay Ruderman: [00:26:00] Well, I would say that one of the things that people talk about, and I’m very interested in your journey of mental health recovery, but it’s often said that people that are considering suicide that you never know. And from what I have read and understand about you, that you grew up in a loving family, and did they have any inclination that this was going through your head? That this was a thought process that you were [00:26:30] going through?
Kevin Hines: No. But to be fair, they didn’t know because I hid it from them. But all the more reason parents need to ask the questions. Nobody taught Pat and Debbie Hines suicide prevention techniques. No one taught Pat and Debbie Hines to ask the questions at a young age. No one taught Pat and Debbie Hines about mental health and well-being. So how could they know what to ask. I was in treatment, I was seeing a psychiatrist. I was on medications. [00:27:00] They didn’t know the medications were toxifying in my system making me worse because I was on too many meds at one time, which is not indicative to psychiatry or the field of medicine.
Psychiatry and the field of medicine have helped save my life for 20 years. But this particular regimen of pills was affecting me in a negative way. We didn’t learn that out til later of course, after my attempt. But now we have the education. Now more people than ever before are talking about mental health. Now it’s, I mean, look, it’s even on the Olympic [00:27:30] stage. You’ve got Olympic athletes and even tennis players talking about their mental health. Michael Phelps talking about his mental health. And we need to respect people who take a step back to take care of their mental health and well-being because of their personal mental health struggles.
And I think there’s a lot of … We call it stigma when someone is against those, those mental health crises, but the reality is we don’t call bigotry [00:28:00] and hatred and prejudice stigma. We call it bigotry and hatred and prejudice. Let’s call what’s going on with those with mental illness exactly what it is, marginalization and discrimination against them because of their brain pain. And let’s help them be vocal about their struggle and understand what they’re going through and empathize and lack in any judgment for them.
Jay Ruderman: So maybe you can get in a little bit about your mental health process and how you went from being [00:28:30] the aftermath of being the Golden Gate Bridge to recovering. Or being able to deal with on a day to day basis your mental health.
Kevin Hines: Absolutely. And the reality is, is that I live in recovery every single day. So it really is a process. It’s something that I’m working on, on a regular basis. And it’s not something that comes necessarily [00:29:00] easy. It’s something that I fight for. And so this is … I want to tell you about my 10 step routine to better brain health, and it’s together I put together years ago. It includes therapy and that’s sight therapy or talk therapy or teletherapy. Music therapy, art therapy, blue wave light box technology therapy and breathing therapy. Resonance breathing therapy. Inhaling through my nose [00:29:30] four seconds, holding for four seconds, and releasing eight seconds, pursed lips like a whistle, but now sound. And doing that 30 times in the morning, 30 times in the afternoon, 30 times at night. Or whenever I’m having a panic attack, anxiety attack or stress issue.
Then the next step is proper nutrition. And that’s eating non-inflammatory foods more often than inflammatory foods. Foods that are filled with proper nutrients and minerals that you need to feed your brain. And your gut to brain health is very important, so feeding your gut [00:30:00] good healthy foods, because your gut is chemistry is directly connected to your brain chemistry is really important. It’s a symbiotic relationship and one can’t survive without the other. And if you’re eating poorly, you’re going to be damaging the functionality of your brain. Going forward from there, is exercise. I exercise three days a week. I’m going to be umping that to five or six days a week pretty soon. Getting back in the fighting shape I was a [00:30:30] few years ago. Exercise is a very helpful tool for my better brain health. If you’re physically capable, get down to the ground and get to work, because it can benefit you immensely. 23 minutes of rigorous exercise leads to 12 hours of better mood.
Sleep is really important if you have the ability to get seven, eight hours of sleep a night. I sleep that much and I sleep well. My sleep functionality is really important. If I’m doing that, I’m stabilizing my brain health in a great way. [00:31:00] And these are just a few of the things I do to stabilize. Education, this one’s a really important one. It’s a two parter. Educating myself as to my diagnosis and then educating my family and friends as to my struggles so that they understand me and can get my back instead of wondering what’s wrong with me or having me snap out of it or get over it or move on, or pull myself up by bootstraps. They understand that this is a very real diagnosis. This is very legitimate and I need to get treatment for it so I can be better.
[00:31:30] Then I take medication every day with 100% accuracy. That’s very helpful. I meditate. Don’t need to go into the details there, but meditation is an act of training the mind that increases awareness. And different mediation params obviously approach that in different ways. This reduces the activity in the brain’s me center. And it really is something that can help you balance out your life. And then I advocate. I advocate for myself and my mental well-being with my doctors. And [00:32:00] I do policy advocacy as well. So two types of advocacy there. And then I have coping strategies and mechanisms like grounding techniques, socializing with family and friends, spending time with a pet, like an emotional support animal, which I used to have. Time with myself, alone time. Using humor to deflect the pain. Finding spirituality and faith that helps me stay stable. All these things are things I can do to stabilize.
And [00:32:30] then what I did was I created a mental health emergency plan and I opted in peer support protectors, or what I call personal protectors into my plan and that’s about five or six people that all have my doctor’s information and I have release forms signed to usurp HIPA privacy laws. And that means that when they call my doctor and say, “How’s Kevin in treatment?” They get the truthful answer and the whole answer, so that they can best serve me and help keep me safe. There are things people do, there’s [00:33:00] some great resources that we have for folks, and I’d love to share them with your audience if that’s okay.
Jay Ruderman: Sure.
Kevin Hines: So a couple of things. I mentioned it earlier, the YouTube.com/KevinHines has 500 plus videos all to help your brain, mind, behavior, mental and physical health and well-being. They are dedicated to helping people stay here. People from all around the world write to say that these videos save their lives. We don’t own that, we just put the message out there. [00:33:30] We’re conduits and the videos do the work they do. We have a website called kevinhinesstory.com/resources. And this has the 10 step guide to better brain health. And you can train with that PowerPoint. And then there’s a parent’s guide to teen suicide prevention. And then there’s a guide to the YouTube channel on what videos help what person with what mental struggle. So there’s three resources there.
And then there’s my new book, [00:34:00] The Third Rail: In My Mania, I Became. And you can find that at the3rdrailbook.com. And that’s the and then the number three R-D, spelled out. And then that book is the story of a man named Jesse Cohen and it’s written by Jesse Cohen and myself. And Jesse Cohen was a Tulane law student in his 20s in the height of the organized crime era in the 1990s in New Orleans. And he in his mania [00:34:30] became a vigilante. He was if you will, like Batman. He would go out in a black suit, black tie and black shirt and he was stop crimes listening to police scanners and he was taught Krav Maga by a Vietnam War veteran and he went out and he took criminals to task and then left them for the police.
And in his mania, it just led him to do this to be this wielder of justice. But the story is absolutely phenomenal. It’s a rollercoaster [00:35:00] of a ride. It’s a pretty intense book. But the message is clear, stay alive from suicide ideation and keep fighting the pain. Jesse tragically lot his life to depression and suicide, but he left this legacy with this book. And it’s already helped people stay alive. We’ve gotten messages from folks saying that this book saved their life. And that was the purpose of writing the book. And it’s written in Jesse’s first person and it is powerful. And [00:35:30] it’s a message that is quite clear. So those are our resources. We want them to help people stay here. We want them to help people fight their pain. We want them to help people recognize their true value and that suicide is never the answer.
Jay Ruderman: Well, Kevin, it sounds like you’ve done a tremendous amount of work not only for yourself, but for others, and to give people the techniques in order to walk themselves through this journey. I can tell you personally that I really identify [00:36:00] with working out and eating right and keeping yourself healthy. And I advocate for that, because I think that makes you feel good. So I get where you’re coming from there. Let’s talk about when you were 17 and first diagnosed. And tell me about the resources you had at home and in school, and were they adequate at the time?
Kevin Hines: Being first [00:36:30] diagnosed with bipolar disorder, there weren’t many resources, certainly not at school. There was a good counselor that I had at school, Mr. Marty Procaccio and Mr. Vitardio Anastacio. They were great. They were really helpful and kind to me. But there weren’t places I could learn about my struggle. One of the things that happened later on is that I went to the family class at NAMI, [00:37:00] National Alliance on Mental Illness with my father and we learned about depression together, and that was helpful. My psychiatrist was helpful, but he turned out to be on methamphetamines the entire time he treated me and his other patients. He needed help and he wasn’t getting it and he would end up taking his life years later. We wouldn’t learn about his struggles until five years after we I started seeing him.
But my parents certainly [00:37:30] didn’t have the resources that are out there today. And there are plentiful resources out there today. Every time you turn around there’s a new mental health advocate popping up on Instagram or one of the social medias. But really you need to do your research and carefully find out who are the leading authorities in mental health and well-being so that you get the best information possible and the best tools [00:38:00] to fight your pain and to help your children, or help your loved ones who are struggling.
Jay Ruderman: So I have a personal question, and this is just something that I’ve been dealing with for a while. I have a very good friend, he’s obviously going through some psychosis. I’ve talked to him over and over again, tried to get him help, tried to offer to set up help for him, and he’s in a place now where he’s like, “Nope, I’m fine.” But when you listen to him, [00:38:30] what he’s saying does not make sense to … He’s not talking in reality. So how do you get through to a person like that who says he’s obviously going through something, but completely denies that there’s something going on?
Kevin Hines: So if for folks in denial it’s a tricky situation. But one of the things that seems to work is this thing called the Caring Letters. [00:39:00] You would be sent regular caring letters that said, “Hey, thinking about you. Wishing you well. How are you feeling in treatment? Is there anything you need from us? How can we help you?” These caring letters turned into caring letters and caring packages. The caring packages would be a whole bunch of things that the person loves in a package, plus four or five letters from four or five different people that love and care for this person, all of them including five things, a sentence about compassion, love for the person, lack of judgment, [00:39:30] total empathy, and all the signs symptoms and triggers and issues you are worried about with that person.
So all those letter included those five things and what it did was, instead of going in one ear and out the other for the person, it ends up showing them rather than telling them they need help. So showing someone you need help rather than telling them, can be often much more effective than just speaking it. And so [00:40:00] this seems to be a very helpful tool for people in denial and for those who love them.
Jay Ruderman: Let’s talk about schools today. Are we doing a good enough job at de-stigmatizing mental health and providing the resources that people need?
Kevin Hines: Some high schools and colleges are doing a great job doing that and some are not. I would say that there is a group of high school and college leaders that seem [00:40:30] to think that if you talk about it then it will get worse, which is not the case. If you talk about it, you will deduce who’s in trouble and you’ll get them to safety. And some folks just don’t comprehend that. Some people in leadership of schools don’t comprehend that. But there are some schools around the country and around the world that are really taking a first step, and have been taking the first steps into acclimating their student population into the mental [00:41:00] health foray. Basically saying, “We are going to cover this topic. We are going to talk about it all year round. And we are going to help benefit your mental health on a regular basis by doing these activities.” And they’re really making some great headway in keeping kids safe.
There’re some great programs out there that are doing those things. And there are some great advocates out there doing those things. My wife and I are some of them. We go out, we go to high schools and colleges all around [00:41:30] the world and we share stories of lived experience, not just from myself, but from some of our congra collective. And we help people who are in pain recognize their true value and get them to a safe place.
Jay Ruderman: Can you tell me a little bit about the work that you and your wife are doing with the Kevin and Margaret Hines Foundation?
Kevin Hines: Certainly. Well, what we’re doing is, we’re raising funds to give [00:42:00] scholarships to students and kids who want to be in the suicide prevention field. So we’re getting them into conferences and events and things of that nature so they can learn and educate themselves about how to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. We’re also raising funds to give to kids who otherwise couldn’t afford teletherapy, so that they have free teletherapy [00:42:30] so that they can get that and be given treatment and time and help for their mental well-being.
Jay Ruderman: So if someone doesn’t have that readily available access to mental health counseling, that’s the direction that you’re going to send them in, that there are telemedicine, there are ways to connect to someone to talk about your mental health?
Kevin Hines: Yeah, so you don’t feel so alone and so siloed. So you feel like you have someone to [00:43:00] fall back on and so you can tell you pain and your struggle to someone who genuinely cares about your well-being and your future.
Jay Ruderman: So what’s the one piece of advice that you would tell a person right now who was thinking about taking his or her own life?
Kevin Hines: You know what I would say to you is that you need to be more kind to yourself. Compassionate and forgiving of yourself. Suicide [00:43:30] is not the answer to your problem. It is the problem. You are a gift to this world. You are meant to be here until your natural end. And you can fight this pain and you can survive it. Pain is inevitable. But suffering is optional, it’s a choice. If you recognize that if you call yourself a sufferer, you’re becoming the victim of your own story. But if you say you’re living with, fighting with, and battling and thriving despite of your diagnosis or struggle, you then become the hero of your own story. Fight [00:44:00] to become that hero. Recognize your true value and that suicide doesn’t have to be your answer. It is the problem.
Jay Ruderman: Thank you, Kevin. Again, if this was triggering for anyone, I want to again give the national suicide hotline, 1-800-273-8255. And Kevin, you have a text, where people can text?
Kevin Hines: Yes. Text C-N-Q-R to 741741, the crisis text line. Courage to talk about [00:44:30] your mental health. Normalize the conversation. Ask those questions, are you thinking of killing yourself, have you made plans to take your life and do you have the means? And R for recovery, because I’m living proof.
Jay Ruderman: Kevin, thank you so much for joining us today. It was a pleasure. I for certain learned a tremendous amount through your story and your life. I admire what you’ve made of your life and you should know that there are people out there that love you and I think everyone out there who has issues of mental health [00:45:00] should know that there are people, if you don’t know the people, there are people that love you, and love is out there.
Kevin Hines: Thank you very much, Jay, I really appreciate it.
Jay Ruderman: Thank you. Be well.
Kevin Hines: You too.