2018-09-13 / Front Page

Man who attempted suicide gives speech in Bad Axe

By Ben Muir

BAD AXE – Kevin Hines waits to give a speech at the Bad Axe High School last week. BAD AXE – Kevin Hines waits to give a speech at the Bad Axe High School last week. BAD AXE - Kevin Hines is sitting with his eyes closed and head down -- the brim of his super-hero cap blocks his emotional crescendo -- and he’s dangling his legs off a stage that he would in minutes give a speech from about his life leading up to the day he jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge.

Hines, a national mental health speaker from California who in 2000 jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge in an attempted suicide, gave a talk to about 100 people at the Bad Axe High School on Monday.

The now 36-year-old was visibly emotional before giving the type of uncomforting zone speech that embraces vulnerability and includes a disclaimer to step outside if you need to collect yourself. Though the filmmaker also peppered-in some jokes as well.

Hines talked about growing up in foster care, being adopted by a couple -- who he praised throughout -- how his brother died when they were infants, another brother born addicted to drugs, living in an ethnically diverse family that would be denied service at restaurants in the 1980s, and his ascent into a mental illness called Bipolar Disorder.

The disorder, which causes manic highs and depressive lows, was a leading factor that drove him to jump from a bridge.

“...I thought it was only on me,” Hines said. “And I didn’t recognize that I felt alone -- surrounded by a sea of people who love me. I found myself stuck in what we call ‘constricted thinking’ … tunnel vision. And I believe I only had one option - to die.”

For Hines, now an author and filmmaker, being bipolar fostered delusion as well. He said, in school he once ran off the stage during a theatre play because he was convinced every audience member was going to kill him.

He also lamented on the nearly 10 people he was close to who committed suicide, how his parents struggled with substance abuse, and how through it all it’s essential to keep your voice.

“I’ll never again silence my pain,” he said. “When you leave those doors, and you go about the rest of your lives, do me a favor: Never again silence yours. I don’t care if you’re the toughest person in every room.”

About 800,000 people die of suicide worldwide every year. One person will take their life every 40 seconds, according to a video showed at the speech.

In Huron County, suicide accounted for 18.5 percent of deaths in 2015, nearly 6 percent more that the state average, as previously reported by the VIEW. According to a 2016 hospital study that surveyed 254 Huron County residents, about 93 percent agreed that mental health issues affect many people in the area.

Near the end of the speech, Hines, who kept the crowd involved throughout, asked the audience to raise their hand if they had ever been hurt by a person’s words or actions. And then he asked the crowd to raise their other hand if they had done the same onto others.

With nearly the whole crowd raising both hands, Hines asked it to repeat after him: “It will stop with me. I will choose to be kind, compassionate, giving, loving, caring and generous to every person I come into contact with from this day forward.”

After the speech, Ruth Schwendinger, a prevention specialist with Huron Behavioral Health, said the clinic will be hosting its annual suicide walk for awareness at the Huron County Nature Center and Wilderness Arboretum on Saturday, Sept 15 at 9 a.m.

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