“You could be the catalyst to save a life”
Three questions could mean the difference between life and death for someone with a mental health crisis.
“Are you okay? Something wrong? Can I help you?”
Kevin Hines would have liked someone to ask him those words before jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in 2000, he said in a keynote address for a Virtual Project Longevity event on September 21.
He encourages others to “be bold” and to reach out when they see signs of distress in others, asking questions that he himself “desperately needed to hear” earlier. of two decades in San Francisco.
“You could be the catalyst to save a life,” he said.
Hines suffered from “deadly emotional pain,” a “common denominator” among those who attempt suicide, he said.
But in the course of events, Hines considers nothing less than a miracle – he did not die on impact with the water, nor did he drown; after surfacing, Hines was kept afloat by a sea lion until the coast guard saved him from the bay – he survived that suicide attempt and now dedicates his life to suicide prevention and in defense of mental health.
That pain didn’t go away with time, Hines said. But living with it is much better than not living at all. Hines felt an “instant regret” the moment he jumped off the bridge; he now feels gratitude for his second chance and for the change in perspective that the possibility of continuing to live has provided.
“I knew then that no matter how painful I was, I would never try to kill myself again for as long as I lived,” Hines said. “I knew then that I had been given a second chance, I knew then that I could be here, and to be here is a privilege and a gift, no matter how painful you are. you find.”
Hines still experiences suicidal ideation, but he realized that “our thoughts don’t have to own, rule, or define what happens next; they can simply be our thoughts.
“They torment me, but they’ll never take me,” Hines said, in part because of this notion that thoughts don’t have to equal actions and because he knows how to ask for help when this deadly emotional pain descends on him.
After so much time spent silencing and burying the pain, Hines said he learned that sharing it took his weight off.
“You must now recognize today that your pain is valid, your pain is worthy of my time and the time of others, and our pain matters just because you all do it,” Hines said. “When we silence our pain and bury it, the feeling boils, fuels and grows until it erupts. … When you share your pain, shared pain becomes pain halved.
Aspen Strong Executive Director Angilina Taylor agrees, and this is especially important with the growing mental health issues accompanying the stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said during a post-speaker panel.
“Mental health has really been catapulted into people’s minds through the pandemic, which was an unfortunate way for that to happen, but I think there are many more of us sharing our stories and sharing what is happening. really going with us, which I think in the long run will help us all, ”Taylor said.
Keeping the conversation open – and practicing checks between yourself and others – is part of the crucial and ongoing effort to prevent suicide attempts before they happen, said panelist Kate Moyer, Behavioral Health Coordinator at Aspen Valley Hospital.
“I think really focusing on the little moments that we are having in terms of conversation can be extremely helpful just trying to create some of these ripple effects that are really key to raising awareness and getting people to know what that maybe looks like. . it’s not right,… the goal being that we can prevent a crisis from happening and intervene in a way that doesn’t have to be so urgent, ”said Moyer.
The pain itself can be “inevitable,” Hines said in her speech. “It happens to all of us if it hasn’t already.”
But “suffering is optional, a choice. … If you decide instead to live with it, fight, fight and thrive despite your condition or problem, that makes you the hero of your own story, never to suffer again, ”he said. .