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Bridge jump survivor stresses value of empathy

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    Suicide attempt survivor Kevin Hines speaks at the 50th Anniversary Celebration Luncheon of the Lorain County Board of Mental Health at LCCC May 31.

    STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE

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    Suicide-attempt survivor Kevin Hines speaks at the 50th Anniversary Celebration Luncheon of the Lorain County Board of Mental Health on Thursday at Lorain County Community College.

    STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE

  • Hines-1-jpg

    Suicide-attempt survivor Kevin Hines speaks at the 50th Anniversary Celebration Luncheon of the Lorain County Board of Mental Health at LCCC May 31.

    STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE

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ELYRIA — The Lorain County Board of Mental Health celebrated its 50th anniversary by hosting Kevin Hines, who survived jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge, at a luncheon Thursday at the Spitzer Conference Center.

Hines, 36, of San Francisco, attempted to take his life by jumping from the bridge when he was 19. He is one of only 36 to have survived the jump, and one of only five people to regain full mobility afterward.

Hines shared his story, including his struggle with bipolar disorder and his biological parents’ battles with substance abuse and mental illness. Hines was adopted by Pat and Debbie Hines as an infant after his biological brother died, but while he was taken out of the traumatic living situation caused by his parents’ drug use, he said he still suffered from the same mental illness for which his parents self-medicated.

At 17 he began having auditory and visual hallucinations, leading to his first suicide attempt. He tried again, at 19, when he jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge. On his way to the bridge, he had a breakdown on a crowded bus, but instead of people helping him or asking if he was OK, the only comment made was “What the hell’s wrong with that kid?”

“That is what’s wrong with some of our society today,” Hines said. “Our human ability to be able to see someone in the greatest pain they’ve ever experienced and do nothing and feel nothing but apathy ...”

Hines thanked those in attendance — from mental health professionals to judges and law enforcement officers — for understanding the importance of suicide prevention and reaching out to those in need of help.

“I know you understand that lives are at stake here, and I know how hard you are working everyday to save them and I’m grateful, I truly am. I believe, my friends, that (if) we are nothing else on this planet, we are supposed to be one thing together, our brother’s and sister’s keepers. … We are not here for personal betterment or gain, we are here to give back to those we know, those we love, those we care about and those we don’t know from Adam. We’re even here to give back to those we don’t even like.”

Lorain County Board of Mental Health director Kathleen Kern echoed the importance of the community coming together, taking time to thank residents, board members, staff, network agencies and public partners that have worked together for the pat 50 years to influence the health of the community.

“We’ve come a long way, and we’ve got a long way to go,” Kern said. “When it comes to mental health and how to help full communities, there’s always evolving opportunities; and I think in 10 years the system’s going to look very different, in 20 years it’s going to look different, but what will continue to happen is we’ll continue to have a community that’s interested in moving forward in terms of making sure the mental health needs of our community are met.”

The Lorain County Board of Mental Health provides funding, planning and monitoring for mental health services across the county. These include counseling, prevention, crisis intervention, housing development and vocational employment support. The board offers a 24/7 crisis hotline that is available at 800-888-6161.

Contact Carissa Woytach at 329-7245 or cwoytach@chroniclet.com.
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