Nearly 1.38 million Americans tried to take their life in 2019, according to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Nineteen years before that statistic, Kevin Hines jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge in an attempt to end his life. He survived the 220 foot fall and now advocates for suicide prevention and mental health.
Hines visited Emporia State Wednesday night to tell his story and convey the importance of asking for help or reaching out to those who may need it.
Throughout his presentation, Hines told his life story, from birth to 19, the age when he attempted suicide. Hines mentioned the trauma he experienced early in life when he and his brother were taken from his parents and put into the foster care system.
“We were bouncing around from home to home in foster care (and) often neglected in those homes,” Hines said. “In one of the homes filled with neglect, (my brother and I) both got a vicious strain of bronchitis. My only full-blooded brother, Jordache, died. After he passed away and losing my birth parents, I immediately developed a severe detachment disorder from reality and abandonment issues that follow me until today.”
He was adopted by the Hines family and was given a home “filled with hope.” However, because of this past, Hines was never able to overcome his mental illness.
Hines said he believes that his diet as an infant contributed to the formation of his mental illness. His diet consisted of whatever his birth parents could get their hands on.
Poor childhood gut health is correlated to mental health, according to a 2016 study by Geraint Rogers.
“Your gut biome houses your serotonin,” Hines said. “If you're being fed Kool Aid, Coca-Cola and sour milk, it's going to literally damage the functionality of your brain. I was mentally ill from the very beginning.”
Hines, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, will forever struggle with his mental illness, but he has found ways to cope.
“I’ve been alive for 21 years doing this, with chronic thoughts of ending my life,” Hines said. “By the sheer probability of the number of people I ask for help, I’m always given the help I need. I’ve realized that I deserve to be here until my natural end; just like all of you. (Suicide) is never the answer to our problems, it is the problem.”
Hines ended his speech by leading the crowd through a series of positive affirmations that he encouraged everyone to record with their phone.
“You can literally retrain your brain with that,” Hines said. “Recite, repeat, believe.”
Faith Lachapelle, a sophomore elementary major, has heard Hines talk before. She said she believes Hines’ message should be heard by everybody.
“Anyone who is struggling with mental health or suicide, it does get better,” Lachapelle said. “I know me personally, I hate when people say that, because they don't tell you when it will get better. But it will, it just takes time. It's very important to have a group of good quality people, whether that be a friend or a family member. Even if it's just one or two, it's really important to have.”
Kate Heiserman, sophomore elementary education major and talks and topics chair for the Union Activities Council, helped organize this event.
“I think the event went well,” Heiserman said. “We had a great turnout. I think that he has a great message. Having the support front of the rest of campus is really nice for our activities that we put on and work so hard for.”
If you or someone you know are struggling; please reach out. Text CNQR to 741-741 or call 1-800-273-8255 for help. For additional resources, contact ESU’s Student Wellness Center for counseling services at 620-341-5222, or CrossWinds at 620-343-2211.