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Kevin Hines
Kevin Hines

Great mistake leads to great mission

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Kevin Hines is a unique young man.

He is one of 1,600 people who have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco since it opened in 1937. He is one of only 34 who survived the four-second fall, and he is the only one who still has full mobility after hitting the waters of the Golden Gate Straight at about 75 mph.

At 19-years old, Hines has said, this was “the greatest mistake I ever made.”

As soon as his hands left the railing he realized the voices in his head were wrong. These voices, caused by his bipolar disorder, had been telling him he needed to die. He realized while in free fall that he wanted to live.

The fall broke his body, but not his spirit, says his promotional material, so Hines now takes his message of mental health advocacy around the world through presentations, books, and films.

“How can you not do the right thing and come forward and be brave enough to share your story?’ said Margaret Hines, the speaker’s wife and business partner.

Hines will be in Madison on Friday, March 31 to share his story at a 7 p.m. talk at Dakota State University, in the Tunheim Classroom Building auditorium.

The public is invited to attend the talk, sponsored by Dakota State University, Madison Regional Health System, Lake County Veteran's Service Office, and Community Counseling Services. It will also be livestreamed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eV_OvtwJyQ4.

There are a lot of misconceptions and stigmatization and discrimination with mental illnesses such as biopolar disorder, Margaret said. “It’s not something that is normally discussed.”

That is the purpose behind Kevin’s talks, to bring up issues surrounding mental health. The presentations are equally important for those who are suffering, and their family or friends. 

“He gets tens of thousands of emails a year from both, those who have been diagnosed or their caregivers,” she said. Hines’ talk will provide advice so that both will be better equipped to handle the diagnosis.

"Our hope is that by bringing in speakers like Kevin that people can see that it is important to talk about mental illness,” said Erica Clements, spokesperson for Madison Regional Health System. “An open and honest conversation with loved ones, counselors and health care providers is a key component in addressing the illness and getting help."

Clements added that the partnership between the agencies “shows that the topic of mental wellness is a high priority to many different organizations in the community. It also demonstrates that mental illness does touch all age groups and backgrounds." 

The topic’s local impact was highlighted in a March 23 in the Madison Daily Leader. Lake County Emergency Manager Doug Huntrods addressed the county commissioners regarding the number of calls to the newly instituted 2-1-1 Helpline service for Lake County. In its first six months, 40 of the 431 total contacts with the helpline dealt with mental health issues; 10 of those 40 dealt with suicide, said Dave Askins’ article.

National statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed a 3.2 percent increase in suicides as the cause of death, in 2104, with almost 43,000 people committing suicide. This made “intentional self-harm” the 10th of the top 15 causes of death in the country.