All students congregated in Serra's gymnasium Monday to hear the Health and Wellness Summit's Keynote Speaker Kevin Hines discuss the troubling topic of suicide.
In his book Cracked Not Broken, Hines describes in great detail his leap off the side of San Francisco's iconic Golden Gate Bridge when he was 19 years old and full of lethal emotional pain, mental disarray and despair.
"At that time, all I could see was pain, all I could feel was pain, and all I could hear was pain," Hines said.He recalled the regular feeling of being solely alone even though there were a million people around him.
Genetically predisposed to Type 1 bi-polar disorder with a psychotic nature, Hines said he remembers his first psychotic breakdown, on stage during a play at Archbishop Riordan High School. He remembers running off stage while in the middle of his part, certain that the 1,200 audience members were literally there to kill him. The voices in his head were too loud to drown. He wished he knew then that his thoughts did not have to become his actions.
"When my mom picked me up and looked in my eyes, she saw in mine the depths of insanity behind me," Hines said.
He would spend a couple years with therapists and take anti-psychotic medication but the thoughts of suicide persisted.
"I was 19 and it was too heavy to bear and I considered suicide. I sat down to write that note," Hines said. "My brain was trying to kill me as my body was trying to cling to life."
He remembers wandering the burnt red suspension bridge for nearly 40 minutes, crying, wishing, praying and hoping that someone would approach him to sway his thinking.
"On that bridge I only wanted someone to ask me ... I couldn't reach out so I needed someone to reach in," Hines remembered.
He plummeted the equivalent of 25 stories in five seconds, nearly shattering his spinal cord in the process. He prayed to God for life at nearly the instant he jumped.
On that fateful day, Hines said it was a medley of miracles that saved his life. It was the woman in the car who saw him plunge into the Pacific Ocean and called her friend on her car phone. That friend called the Coast Guard. And then there was the sea lion who bobbed its gigantic body under Hines,' affording his broken human body a chance to breathe air while rescue crews were en route.
Hines was one of very few lucky ones. Ninety-nine percent of those who jump off the Golden Gate Bridge die. Only 39 have survived a jump in 83 years. Of those, 26 are alive today. Of the 26 survivors, 19 people have come forward to admit that they each had the same instantaneous regret that Hines experienced once they jumped.
Hines is one of five jumpers that are known as the most exclusive survivors of that group. They are those who can still walk.
Hines' fall would break his body but not his spirit.
Today, Hines travels the world to tell his story. His mission remains to remind people young and old that pain is everywhere, but suffering doesn't have to be.
"Suicide is never a solution," he said. "It is the problem."
This was one of several health and wellness topics that include presentations over a three-day period at Serra High School.