“Less than 1 percent survive the fall. I am extremely lucky to be here.” These are some of the first words Kevin Hines said in his introduction to his sold out speech last Thursday at the Chenery Auditorium. Hines, for those who are not familiar, is a motivational speaker traveling around the country sharing his personal stories from his autobiography Cracked, Not Broken of survival with depression and mental illness after surviving a suicide attempt from the Golden Gate Bridge in September of 2000.
In attendance were various members of the Kalamazoo County Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Kalamazoo City Hall, Portage City Hall, Kalamazoo College, and Western Michigan University, among others. As Hines spoke about the events following his attempted suicide and his recovery, he would often lace his deep and emotional story with humorous events and jokes to lighten the tone and audience.
Hines was adopted at nine months old after being put in the foster care system. Hines’ biological parents were drug addicts who were living in a motel when Child Protective Services removed him and his older brother from their parents.
Hines’ older brother eventually died from Tuberculosis while Hines was left in a sick state when his future adoptive parents found him in an orphanage.
Hines attributes the conditions he lived in at the first nine months of his life as the origins of his mental health problems, stating that multiple studies have shown a link between the environment of a baby and their eventual physical and cognitive development in life.
Throughout his speech, Hines could not stress enough his privilege to be alive after living a life full of suicidal thoughts and depression. Hines implores his audience to truly understand mental health, mental illness, and what it means to be mentally healthy. Exercise, proper diet, among other things, are essential to keeping the brain and soul fit and sound, Hines said.
After the lecture, audience members were allowed to ask Hines questions and share their own stories of mental illness and suicide. Many in the audience were clearly moved and intrigued by his story and wanted to know how they could help those in their lives suffering in silence from mental illnesses. “People in silence don’t want to die, they just want to be heard”, Hines told an audience member.
“I am alive, I got the privilege to be here. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why we call it the present. Life is the biggest gift we are given.”
If you or anyone you know is having thoughts about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255. The line is toll-free, confidential, and staffed 24/7/365.