Kevin Hines attempted suicide in the fall of 2000 by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.
He was 19 at the time and two years earlier, had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Hines is one of 33 Golden Gate Bridge survivors. Less than 2 percent of those who survived the jump have regained full mobility like he has.
Today, he describes himself as “living mentally well while having the brain illness bipolar disorder.”
Hines will present a program, “Living Mentally Well,” Monday, Sept. 22, at Waupaca High School.
He speaks to thousands of people each year about his firsthand experience with suicidal thoughts and how to live mentally well and prevent suicides.
Next fall’s program is being sponsored by the Waupaca County Suicide Prevention Coalition, an organization dedicated to educating area communities and preventing suicide.
The coalition formed in December 2011.
The Sept. 22 program will be free, held in the evening and open to the public.
The Victor and Christine Anthony Family Foundation is providing funds for the cost of the presentation.
Further donations are also being accepted to provide financial support related to the upcoming program and the future work of the coalition.
The Waupaca County Suicide Prevention Coalition meets monthly.
It is a diverse group that includes pastors, counselors, Waupaca County’s coroner and representatives from school districts and the Waupaca County Department of Health and Human Services.
Rev. Chuck Tews, of Trinity Lutheran Church, is one of the members of the coalition.
“Too many times I have been involved with suicide where family and friends are left wondering ‘Why?’” he said. “Suicide is a mental health issue. I became involved in the Waupaca County Suicide Prevention Coalition to help friends and families learn tools, such as QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) training, to help stop others from using a permanent solution to temporary problems.”
In the last two years, close to 400 people have gone through the QPR training sponsored by the coalition.
The coalition received a grant to cover the cost of the training.
Last November, during a QPR suicide prevention training in the Waupaca School District, the facilitator shared Kevin Hines’ story.
Trisha Taber works as a substitute Registered Nurse in two area school districts and was at the training.
“What struck me was his quote that had one person on the Golden Gate Bridge simply asked him if he was OK or needed help, he never would have jumped,” Taber said.
“Sadly, no one did. And, he jumped,” she said. “It’s time to reach out to each other and ask the tough questions and to be there for each other when looking the other way seems easier. You’d be amazed how much people will open up when someone takes the time to care, especially teens. The time to care is now.”
Since that day in November, the local coalition has been working to bring Hines to Waupaca County.
Tews said people often do not talk about mental illness, and asking for help is hard.
Elissa Stults, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Ministry Medical Group, joined the coalition in 2012.
“I have experienced working with counseling clients who are suicidal, or have family members who have committed suicide,” Stults said. “I have also been affected by classmates who committed suicide, and it is a concern in our community that I have been aware of for the last 18 years.”
In addition to working in schools, Taber also works at Winnebago Mental Health Institute.
She his witnessed firsthand how devastating and challenging mental illness can be to a patient, their families and friends, she said.
“It’s been said that when people are facing mental health issues, ‘No one brings a casserole (like they do with cancer, heart attacks, strokes),’” Taber said. “It’s tough to live that reality with your patients every day, because with the right therapy, genuine support and medication compliance, we have seen how successful their lives can become.”
Hines’ story has been featured in the film “The Bridge” and in hundreds of local, national and international print, radio and television media outlets.
His memoir, “Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt,” was published in June 2013.
Copies of his book will be available for purchase at the Sept. 22 event, and there will be a book signing.
Those who want to financially support the work of the coalition may contact Tews at Trinity Lutheran Church at 715-258-7688.