On April 30th, we hosted our kick off to Mental Health Awareness Month event, Creative Advocacy, in San Francisco. We honored five youth and adult advocates for their work to improve the lives of youth with mental health needs. At the event each awardee shared why mental health matters to them with our 220 guests. We’ll be sharing their inspiring messages of hope and determination throughout the month of May on our blog–because they’re messages worth spreading.
Kevin Hines, Mental Health Champion Awardee
“Are you okay? Is something wrong? Can I help you?” These are the words I begin all of my speeches with, and the only words I desperately needed to hear the day I found myself atop the Golden Gate Bridge walkway. The day I attempted to die by these two hands, to die by suicide…
Whether you’ve attempted, lost a loved one to the fanged, clawed beast called depression, or you run red with the inner turmoil of chronic suicidal thoughts like me. Whether your family wages war with the constant brain pain inside you, or you wage the war with yourself, you must not turn toward nor listen to your debilitating critical inner voice.
You cannot blindly follow the negative self. That self mental illness causes to arrive is nothing but a pathological liar, steering you wrong at every turn. If you do, you’ll watch helplessly as the path you walk crumbles before you. All of your efforts to this point will be for naught. Growing old in and out of psych wards, and jail cells due to mental instability is nowhere near your destiny. You can fight for wellness today and everyday, never to become a member of the forgotten, like those countless psych ward frequent consumers — I would rather call them citizens of hope. They’re not shoppers at target, they are alive and in need of better treatment and care.
In running away from that potentiality, a road I remind myself none of us are immune to, a road I have walked, a path I have literally fallen from. That said we can’t let our life light flicker or flame out, like so many survivors have by suicide.
No, death by our own hands halts our rocky path in its track. The chronic struggle must lead only toward one outcome, a through line to prevail. A way to win, by labored win, with our arms locked, as a team, a unit, a force to be reckoned with fighting valiantly against our own minds.
Together we will advocate the greatest of change, as we build back our societies from discriminatory to understanding. Brick by brick we will teach those willing to learn, we will educate those who stereotype us as any number of labeled illnesses.
We will intrigue those who want to know and do more for the cause. We will entertain the ones that struggle because without a sense of humor, our audience will be lost.
Then we will march forth to connect those individuals, and groups too focussed on fads and the uber-fication of existence, we will be putting down our smart devices to see, to really see the people that surround us. The people that matter most.
After all of that, after the brave huddle in unison for what is a civil rights movement of this or any time, a balance will be achieved. We will begin the journey to becoming, remaining, and building stronger minded advocates for brain, mental, behavioral health and wellbeing than ever before. An international collective of visionaries shall converge upon such discrimination, like hawk diving on its prey. Wiping out the prejudice, finding success.
We look to the past as we are only here but for those who have come before us. From dedicated advocates we revere like John F. Kennedy, First Lady Rosalyn Carter, Patrick Kennedy, John Draper, Dr. Dan Reidenberg, Dr. Thomas Joiner, Eve Myers, Julie Cerel, Kita Curry, Bob Gebbia, the late Phil Rogers, and all of the Trekkers who have paved the way to wellness and suicide prevention for the last few decades as those previously mentioned have and do.
To our current mental health heroes like Dequincy Lezine, Sally Spencer Thomas, Ursula Whiteside, Eduardo Vega, April Forman, Tony Wood, Ashley Hunt, Josh Rivedal, Des’ Rae Stage, Cara Ana, Craig Miller, & so many more.
To the growing future focused efforts of those like Annabelle Gardner, and the amazing efforts of Young Minds Advocacy. We are here tonight because of this phenomenal organization, and what do we all have in common? None of us simply speak about, hope for, or merely wish for change, we mobilize, we join like minded causes, we lay down our egos, and we all work tirelessly day and night to create that kind of change.
My friends, today is a beautiful day. Today is filled with ideas & ideals of walking the crooked path, the unpopular road, the one most don’t see without a gifted lens; the very path, your path toward true global change.
Yes my friends, today we are the hope that exists in the world, now it’s time to spread it. If you cannot see it, look around this room right now into the eyes of past, present, & future game changers that this world needs. Today is a day for the struggled, beaten, battered, bruised survivor to rise. For we may be cracked but we will never be broken.
As my father Patrick Hines always said in my darkest hours: Kevin you’re lying in two feet of water and you are drowning, all you must do is STAND.
So stand we will, committed to change, committed to spreading hope which we know helps people heal. It will take all of our voices of lived expertise, lived experience, drive, and determination, to shift the paradigm.
We are all committed to life and living in a world where suicides fall to zero, as it is the only acceptable number. We will build a world where the words stigma, and discrimination cease to exist in our vocabularies. Why? Because we create an existence where no one is marginalized by the definition of those words ever again. This kind of change takes a never quit attitude, yet with diligence, and powerful persistence, great change like this has come before.
Advocates have reached such major victories before. An example right in our backyard some of you in this room are not yet aware of. Others already know and were a part of the Bridge Rail Foundation’s (BRF) efforts. The BRF is an organization co-founded by my father Patrick, Paul Muller, & David Hull. My father saw my attempt as an opportunity to challenge the world stage, he used my attempt as fuel to his fire, and once lit he and the BRF never stopped. We worked for exactly a decade for immeasurable change.
I am proud to say that groundbreaking of a suicide prevention net on the Golden Gate Bridge begins this July. In only 3 months they commence the building of that net, and as of 2018 the Golden Gate Bridge will no longer be the harbinger of death it has been for 8 decades. As of 2018 not one more beautiful human being will die off of the Golden Gate Bridge. A massive undertaking it has been, but worth all the blood sweat and tears — so many tears — to get to this juncture.
Together, friends, we must stand for, fight for, and work within this movement until the world’s national strategies focus on increasing ten fold the understanding for those with brain diseases. Building not just nets to protect them in countries everywhere, but a world where empathy becomes instinctual, where compassion & kindness are the keys to interpersonal interaction, and finally a world where pure love is the only force driving the wheels of this great big green and blue bus. A world where the only commodity that matters is doing good, just for the sake of doing good.
Ladies and gentleman, yesterday is history, tomorrow mystery, today gift.
You have the absolute power within to help save a life.
Kevin Hines is a storyteller, mental health advocate, award-winning global speaker, bestselling author and documentary filmmaker who reaches audiences with his story of an unlikely survival and his strong will to live. Two years after he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (19 years of age), he attempted to take his life by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. He is one of only thirty-four to survive the fall, and the one of a handful to regain full physical mobility. He is the only Golden Gate Bridge jump survivor who is actively spreading the message of living brain well around the world. The fall would break his body, but not his spirit. Today, Kevin dedicates his life to working towards changing and saving lives by spreading the message of hope and sharing his art of wellness guide. He is one of the most respected and admired voices of lived experience and has been publicly sharing his story for well over a decade. Kevin’s story is a remarkable testament to the strength of the human spirit and a reminder for us to love the life we have.
This speech was posted as a blog with the consent of the awardee.