Triumph Over Adversity

On September 25, 2000, I tried to kill myself by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

My name is John Kevin Hines. On September 25, 2000, I tried to kill myself by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I believe that by God’s hands I failed. This wasn’t the first time that I tried to commit suicide; it was my second attempt and this time I was determined to succeed. I had felt lost since I was 16 years old. I was chronically ill with bipolar disorder and severe depression; I heard voices echoing in my head, “Jump now, you must die, you are a bad person.” And I believed them. I went out to the bridge because I, in my distorted reality, thought I was a burden to those whom I loved. I believed that by killing myself I was saving them from that burden — quite the opposite from the common misconception that suicidal people are taking the coward’s way out.

More than 1,300 suicides have been recorded at the Golden Gate Bridge, but that figure is significantly low; the deaths at the bridge have far exceeded that number. Many people have jumped in the cloak of darkness and have never been found. Currents have washed them away. Sharks have devoured them. They remain missing to their families, their significant others, their friends.

X Factors

There are varying factors that lead people to commit suicide, but of the more than 31,500 people nationwide who take their own lives each year, 90 percent have been diagnosed with some form of mental disease. Those people lived with the pain of depression and could not even look at themselves in the mirror anymore. We as a society have a great deal to learn and accept about mental illness — like that it derives from an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, that it is just like having the HIV virus: Both of these can be deadly without treatment. Worldwide, suicide due to mental illness kills more individuals than HIV, drunk driving, and homicides put together.

Warning Signs of a Person in Trouble A suicidal person may …

• talk about committing suicide

• have trouble eating or sleeping

• withdraw from friends and/or social activities

• lose interest in hobbies, work, school, etc.

• give away prized possessions

• have attempted suicide before

• take unnecessary risks

• have had a recent severe loss

• be preoccupied with death and dying

• lose interest in personal appearance

• prepare for death by making out a will and final arrangements


If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, call 211 or the Access Team at (888) 868-1649, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK.

These people are our brothers, sisters, cousins, mothers, fathers, friends, colleagues, school mates, and people of any other relation — blood or otherwise — anyone you could possibly imagine. Many suicides due to mental disorders are preventable, no matter what the situation, no matter how deep the depression. If help were readily available during the time of their distress, more lives could be saved and perhaps this epidemic would put itself to rest.

Suicide Prevention Benefit Concert:

The second annual Singers in the Round: Sun., Sept. 24, 2006 dinner 6-7:30 p.m.; music 7:30 p.m. SOhO, 1221 State St., S.B., 962-7776 or
Forum: Featured speaker John Kevin Hines tells his story of surviving a suicide attempt by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge at age 19. Wed., Sept. 27, 2006, 6:30 p.m. San Marcos High School Auditorium, 4750 Hollister Ave.


For more information on the forum, contact Joni Kelly at the Glendon Association: call 681-0415, email, or visit


If the media and government could focus the same amount of attention on the suicides in our country as they do on the homicides, maybe then people would understand how serious this problem is — there are double the number of suicides as homicides in America yearly. Until insurance companies and those in power are forced to acknowledge that having a brain disease is just like having a heart disease, we will go on losing tens of thousands of our beautiful people in the U.S. and 1 million worldwide every year to suicide.

I hope those of you who read my story will come away with something to think about, or better yet, take action. I hope that my story will help save lives. I think that with education we could stamp out the stigma associated with suicide and suicide attempts. There are many deserving causes to join, but suicide prevention is the one closest to my heart. I am lucky to have come into contact with Santa Barbara’s Glendon Association, an organization dedicated to preventing suicides. I am truly fortunate to be able to author this article, seeing as by all accounts I should be dead right now. Do I consider myself one of the luckiest people alive? No, just one of the blessed. I am here for a reason — to help spread the word of suicide prevention. I will give it my all.

John Kevin Hines is a National Suicide Prevention public speaker. He is a member of the Mental Health Board of San Francisco and the Psychiatric Foundation of Northern California. You can email him at

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