Kevin Hines is a suicide prevention advocate who survived an attempt off the Golden Gate Bridge at the age of 19. Suicide is the number two cause of death for 10-34 year olds. As a result of Kevin and his team’s advocacy efforts, a barrier net is being placed along the Golden Gate Bridge in 2021.
This is the sequel to our post in September when we interviewed Kevin Hines. Read on for the second half our conversation with Kevin. Here he shares his work to help erect a net around the Golden Gate Bridge as a symbol of suicide prevention. He also offers his advice and daily tips for managing “brain pain” and mental health issues.
The Shrink Space: You’ve done some awesome advocacy work getting the net put up around the bridge. The ongoing project looks like it will be completed in the next couple of years, which is remarkable. It’s been far too long that there hasn’t been a net and so many lives could have been saved. We would love to hear about that process for you and how you’ve come to make that happen.
Kevin Hines: Well, I will say it took a lot of people, a lot of hard work and a lot of effort from a huge coalition of individuals around the world. My father, after I attempted, founded the organization Bride Rail Foundation (www.bridgerail.net) and their sole purpose then was to raise a net or rail around the bridge to stop the suicides indefinitely. The pushback on this initially was immense and unrelenting. For my father and I, it’s been a 12.5 year journey where we’ve fought very hard, but there have been people who have been a part of this fight for 30 plus years. It was a great, long, hard, difficult journey to get to a successful place because we had such animosity towards our fight. [People were worried about] the aesthetics of the bridge or took the argument that people will just go somewhere else [to attempt suicide], which we disproved every day of the week but nobody was listening at first.
The board members at the golden gate highway and transportation district have changed over the past 12.5 years and they’ve become more adept at understanding mental health and recognized that they had to do this now before there was an outrage. It’s a very proud moment for all of us to see that not one more beautiful soul will be lost on GGB. Now they’re finally building the net every day from 9pm to 5am and the completion is estimated by January 2021.
It also goes to show you that any small group of like-minded people with a positive cause can do anything they want for change around the world if they just are persistent, direct, determined, driven and dedicated. That message, more so than the net going up, is what is going to change things because the GGB literally will be the brightest, largest and most beautiful beacon for suicide prevention around the world. I might get a wonderful chance to go and watch them build a part of the net in their factories where they’re constructing it and… I know I’m going to cry.
The Shrink Space: We’d love to hear more about your recovery process and what you’ve found most helpful in healing from the attempt as well as other trauma you’ve experienced and what we imagine continues to be an everyday process. If you could please share more for the students reading this.
Kevin Hines: I exercise everyday, mostly twice a day, because 23 mins of exercise leads to 12 hours of better moods. I eat mostly non-inflammatory foods that don’t inflame my brain so my mental health struggles are decreased. Inflammatory foods significantly affect brain patterns, brain waves, and brain functions, so I eat healthy foods most days for most meals.
I take medications with 100% accuracy everyday at the same time because it keeps the routine. I also do a breathing technique and take 30 breaths in morning, 30 breaths in the afternoon and 30 breaths at night. I also breathe before I’m about to engage in public speaking…people don’t know this about me but I have a hard time with crowds. Shallow and shortened breathing leads to lessened brain function, so breathing helps with balance.
I educate myself everyday (this is one of most important things on my list) about the newest findings and treatments on bipolar disorder. I have a Google alert, I read the newest edition of bipolar for dummies every time it comes out, and I gave the book “Loving somebody with Bipolar Disorder” to my family members who understand me a lot better now. I also work tirelessly to read about ways to connect better with people on an interpersonal level as well as how to be a better public speaker. I read the book “The Articulate Advocate” because this helps me learn how to take my knowledge and education and disseminate them to other people.
Of course sleep is crucial as well. You are fighting every single day to stabilize and there are people out there who don’t want to fight that fight. What I will say is this…please find a way to stay because you never know what you would have missed. We’re all going to pass away, we are human beings and that is the only truth we know in our lives. We’re not immortal. Give yourself time for things to change. Give yourself time to do the hard work for that change to occur. When I found the will and the work ethic to be stable mentally I knew I could do anything. And anything means I can be here tomorrow and every day after that.
The Shrink Space: Have you had experience with therapy and if so, what has that experience been like for you?
Kevin Hines: Yes of course, I should have said, therapy is one of my 10 steps. I’m in therapy and I use teletherapy, I see a psychopharmacologist and psychotherapist in San Francisco whenever I’m there and it has absolutely augmented my ability to survive. Being able to unload all the pain, the struggle over the years with someone who has distance and is a 3rd party who is not connected with your loved ones is crucial because you get a real, nonjudgmental, empathetic, but fair assessment of what you’re going through from an educated person who is only there for one purpose — to help you. That has been immeasurably helpful.
As a male and a person who is constantly being vulnerable, I try to teach people that there is nothing wrong with therapy and that it’s actually beneficial to unburden your soul from whatever is ailing you and if you keep the pain inside it is going to fester and burst. When we silence our pain it destroys us; when we speak upon it to someone who helps us channel that pain into hope and love, we can make it so that it doesn’t defeat you, but it helps to build you, and that’s where we see the real transformations occur. That’s why therapy should be a crucial part of all of our lives, not just people with mental health diagnoses. Therapy should be something that is available to everyone…exactly what you guys are trying to do.
The Shrink Space: We couldn’t agree more. That’s why we built The Shrink Space. We think therapy often requires a lot of courage, vulnerability, and willingness to participate in it. There is often this stigma that you are weak if you need therapy. We tell our students that therapy actually takes a lot of strength and a lot of motivation and we liken it to going the gym- people wouldn’t stop somebody who is on their way to the gym and say, “Hey you look really fit, why do you keep going to the gym?” It’s like, well this is ongoing… you need to keep working at it to maintain physical health and it is the same with therapy, its something we need to do consistently for everyone to better themselves and to better care for themselves. Right, we often say in our field that the healthiest person in the family is the one who is going to therapy. Unfortunately, it often looks different to the outside world and it’s really our mission to help others understand that going to get support is only enhancing your well being so much more.
On behalf of Kevin Hines, we’d like to recognize several important people who were instrumental in helping to erect the net around the Golden Gate Bridge. A special thanks to Eve Meyer, the late Jerry Mata, and the family of the late Kyle Gamboa. Kevin would also like to give a huge thanks to members of the Bridge Rail Foundation including Paul Muller, Dave Hull, Dayna Whitmer, Priya Clemens and Denis Mulligan among many, many others who helped realize the barrier net. Thanks to all of you and countless others who worked tirelessly on this project for suicide prevention at the GGB.
If you or someone you know are in immediate crisis call 911 or go to your nearest hospital. If you’re considering therapy, you can browse The Shrink Space to find and connect with a therapist who best meets your needs.