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International mental health and suicide prevention advocate Kevin Hines, who survived a 250-foot plunge from the Golden Gate Bridge in 2000, will speak about his personal journey to attain wellness tonight at 6:15 p.m. in I.V. Theater.
Hines began struggling with bipolar disorder, paranoia, mania, depression and hallucinations at age 17 and is one of the 2 percent of survivors who have regained full mobility in their bodies after jumping off the iconic landmark. Hines received the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Voice Award in 2009 and recently completed his memoir, titled “Cracked … Not Broken, The Kevin Hines Story.”
According to Assistant Coordinator of Student Mental Health Services Ryan Sims, an average of 250 UCSB students attempt suicide each year.
“I think it is important for everyone to understand that it is not uncommon,” Sims said. “[Mental Health Coordination Services] wants to change the conversation about mental health and not have it be a taboo subject. One thing that always stuck out to me was how determined Kevin was that he wanted to die and kill himself up until the quarter of a second that he let go. It was not death he was seeking but a release from emotional and physical pain.”
Although many are unaware that their peers are suffering, Sims said it is important for all students to understand the issue’s prevalence and be able to assist those at risk or direct them to on-campus resources.
“Our responsibility is to be a true friend,” Sims said. “If we know someone who is struggling or if we see symptoms, which Kevin will probably talk about during the presentation, we must find help and not turn a blind eye.”
Lead Mental Health Peer Intern Haley Knudson, a fourth-year sociology major, said the group selected Hines as a keynote speaker for the culminating event of Mental Health Awareness Week because of his unintimidating approach and ability to relate to those engaged in a struggle of their own.
“We as [Mental Health Peer Interns] are the liaisons between students and clinical professionals and our goal is to aid students in getting help and take away that stigma for seeking it,” Knudson said. “I think it will be moving to hear his own story about the jump and what happened afterwards — how he survived, figured out how to live his life and realized that suicide is not the only solution to his problems.”
Counseling Services Mental Health Specialist Gladys Koscak, who previously brought Hines to campus in 2008, said his lecture carries a compelling message for all students, regardless of their mental health status.
“He was waiting for someone to smile at him or ask him if he was okay while he was on the bridge, but no one said anything,” Koscak said. “I encourage people to take the time to ask; take the time to smile. It is okay to be human.”
The event is sponsored by UCSB’s Mental Health Peer Interns and is free to the public.