A short article about the unbelievable and true story of Kevin Hines – The man who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and survived.
“I jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge on Sept. 25, 2000. It was a Monday”, recalled Kevin Hines.
Kevin, at the time, was just 19 years, and he was suffering from Depression and Bipolar Disorder.
“I was hearing voices in my head saying, ‘I need to die’, they were getting louder and louder”, said Kevin. “I thought I had to go, I thought I was my family’s greatest burden, I thought I was useless”.
Earlier that day, Kevin’s father felt that something was wrong, but Kevin convinced him otherwise.
As his father kissed him on the cheek, he said ‘I love you, Kevin, be careful’.
“I remember thinking, as my father drove away, that’s the last time I’ll ever see someone I love, and of course the last time anybody I love will ever see me“.
Kevin went to the City College of San Francisco to drop all of his classes and then proceeded to take a bus straight to the Golden Gate Bridge.
He sat in the back row, incapable of hiding his pain any longer, and he started to cry openly.
“I actually had a pact with myself, this is something that many suicidal people do. If one person says, ‘Are you ok’, ‘Is something wrong’, or ‘Can I help you?’ I was going to tell them everything and beg them to help me”, said Kevin.
No one spoke to him.
When the bus stopped, all of the other passengers got off, and the driver called out to Kevin “C’mon kid, you gotta go!”.
Walking down the two steps of the bus felt like an eternity for Kevin.
So, there he was, a 19 years old kid crying and hoping that only one person would notice his tears, approach him and ask:
Can I help you?
Is there something wrong?
Are you okay?
After forty minutes of walking back and forth, a woman approached him:
“Blond curly hair, giant sunglasses that didn’t fit her face, and a smile. And I thought, she smiled at me, she’s going to ask me if I’m ok. I don’t have to die today. I’m 19, and I don’t have to die”, said Kevin. “That’s when she pulled out a camera and said, ‘Will you take my picture?’ I was crushed”.
Kevin took the picture and returned the camera.
She walked away.
‘Absolutely nobody cares. Nobody’. Kevin said to himself.
Within moments he catapulted himself over the bridge.
He fell 220 feet – roughly the height of a 25-story building, it only took four seconds before he hit the water, but within those seconds, he was hit by an avalanche of unexpected emotions:
“Instant regret, powerful, overwhelming. As I fell, all I wanted to do was reach back to the rail, but it was gone”, said Kevin. “The thoughts in those four seconds, it was ‘What have I just done? I don’t want to die. God, please save me’. Boom”.
He hit the water at 75 miles per hour and was sucked under 70 feet.
At that kind speed, water becomes as hard as concrete; he broke his lower vertebrae and his legs.
Yet, somehow, he propelled himself to the surface using only his arms to gasp for air.
Moments before, Kevin was determined to die, suddenly he found himself desperately clinging to life:
“I remember thinking very clearly, ‘Kevin, you can’t die here, if you die here, no one will ever know that you didn’t want to. No one will ever know that you knew you made a mistake’. And I broke the surface.’”
With all his fractures, his asthma, and his unsuitable clothes, Kevin was still in danger of drowning:
“I couldn’t breathe, and I kept going down”, said Kevin. “Every time I went down, I’d go down further, and then I’d have to swim back up, spit out salt water, go back down, spit out salt water, go back down… I couldn’t even yell. I tried to scream; my lungs were impacted. I couldn’t do it”.
Suddenly, Kevin got some unexpected company:
“Something began circling beneath me, and I mean something very large, very slimy and very alive. And I’m freaking out, and I’m thinking ‘You’ve got to be kidding me, I didn’t die jumping off that stupid bridge, and a shark is going to eat me?’
A man who saw Kevin jump of the bridge saw what it was:
It was not a shark; it was a Sealion.
And it did not bite him, it got underneath him and nudged him to the surface every time he submerged into the water.
Saving his life over and over again.
Within 12 minutes, a Coast Guard team pulled Kevin out of the water.
For much of the time, since that day 18 years ago, Kevin has inspired millions of people to get help. He even fought to get a safety net constructed under the bridge to deter people from jumping.
Moral Of The Story
Ever heard the saying ‘Just trust your gut’? I believe there is not a lick of wisdom in this aphorism.
If I have learned anything in my time struggling with depression, it is that for me personally, a healthy dose of distrust for my own thoughts and beliefs is a necessity.
Kevin’s voices whispered to him over and over again that his agony will never stop, that nobody will ever care for him.
Those voices were wrong.
They were lying.
You must become aware of your different modes of being to empower yourself enough to consciously decide what voices inside of you, you are going to listen to, and what voices you are going to ignore.
So, the next time you hear a whisper in your brain telling you that you are a piece of crap, immediately identify the mode you are in and remind yourself that this voice is not in charge of your behaviour, you are the person who is running things here. You are here to stay because you are a miracle waiting to happen.
Psychology exercises for you
Call to Action
Write a Letter to Yourself
Grab a piece of paper and go somewhere where you will not be disturbed.
I would like to conduct a somewhat disturbing thought experiment with you.
Imagine that, by a weird twist of fate, you find yourself in the shoes of Kevin Hines.
You are playing with the thought of ending yourself.
What would stop you from making the biggest mistake of your life?
Write a letter to yourself where you identify and remind yourself that your life has meaning under all circumstances.
Answering the following questions will help you:
- Who is important to you?
- To whom are you important?
- What successes, adventures, or challenges could you no longer have?
- What pleasant experiences could you no longer enjoy?
- Who could you no longer become?
- What skills could you no longer develop?
- What books, art, music, or other creative projects would never see the light of the world because of your premature end?
- Who could you no longer help?
- What problems could you no longer solve?
- Which, un-started, good deeds would the world miss out on?
The purpose of these questions is not to promote any suicidal thoughts, but to identify what it is that gives your life your meaning.
As a person who struggled with depression and suicidal voices for the majority of his life, it was never unclear to me why some people fall into despair.
Being a human being is incredibly hard and full of horse crap, and I believe that in our hearts, we all know that to be true.
What always confused me was why there were so many people who transcended their pain and lived a fulfilled life.
It seems to me that people who prevail despite their apparent victimhood, are people who have successfully architected a life around them that is so rich in meaning that it justifies their suffering.
It is your responsibility to forge a powerful alliance with yourself and say yes to life and yes to yourself.
And, who knows, maybe if you become everything you can be, you will discover that there is a Sealion in you waiting to happen.
Thank you for reading,
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 1–800–273–8255.