Kevin Hines shares his unlikely survival story with Vail-area audiences

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Suicide survivor Kevin Hines stands on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. In the 21 years since her attempt, Hines has traveled across the country to talk about her experience with mental health.
Courtesy Photo: Kevin Hines

Tales of incredible survival feats aren’t uncommon in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, but few are as intense as the one shared with a local audience Thursday via Zoom as part of Vail Daily’s Project Longevity.

In a keynote following a virtual panel discussion featuring local behavioral health experts, award-winning filmmaker and speaker Kevin Hines told an audience how he “sprinted and catapulted” from the Golden Gate Bridge on September 25 2000.



What happened next has been studied by medics and physicists, but no examination has been as thorough as that of Hines, who said that during the drop from 220 feet he suddenly changed his ‘opinion, which brought about a new will to live by touching the water. This would become the determining factor in his survival within minutes of his jump as he swam to stay alive. Along with his will to live, luck, youth, strength, utilities, and a humorous fear – told by Hines – of sharks played a role in keeping him alive.

“Thirty-five people in 85 years survived this fall. Of those 39 people, 26 came forward, just like me, to say that they all had the same instant regret as me, ”he said. “Because they recognized the moment they thought it was too late that their thoughts should not become their actions.”



Hines continues to fight bipolar disorder. He told the virtual hearing on Thursday that in the years that followed, he learned the importance of seeking help in a crisis, even if it comes from random strangers.

His key message: “Suicide is not the answer to a problem; This is the problem.

It was a takeout that was reviewed earlier in the evening by a panel of Vail area experts who looked at mental health and addiction from a local perspective.

Ask the tough questions

Erin Ivie, executive director of SpeakUp, ReachOut, the Valley Suicide Prevention Coalition, said depression can be identified by changes in behavior.

“If you see a big change in someone’s behavior, that’s a big clue,” she said.

Financial distress, loss of a cherished relationship and loss of independence are often seen in cases of depression that lead to suicide, Ivie said. Loss of independence is usually associated with incarceration, but it can also take the form of aging, she said, “if someone is no longer able to do what they once did.”

Ivie said the two basic things that many warning signs have in common are that the person is alone or feels like a burden.

“These things don’t necessarily mean someone is thinking about suicide, but it’s absolutely worth having a conversation,” Ivie said. “These are the things I see. ” ‘I worry about you.’ ‘Tell me more.’ And once you get them to share with you what these things are and what their history is, you will have a better understanding of how you can support them.

Hines said we shouldn’t be afraid to ask “direct, honest and straightforward questions” as well.

“Three questions: ‘Are you thinking about killing yourself?’ “Are you planning to kill yourself?” “Or can you afford it,” Hines said. “And after that, I know it’s a tough conversation to have, and I know it’s hard to honestly answer that question, but I ask you, as a friend or relative, to speak the truth in this situation, to help keep you safe, because I care about you and love you and you are not a burden, you are taken care of, you are loved, you matter and these matters are important to me that you answer them honestly, so that we can make sure you reach a safe place.

Part of the panel discussion centered on the interior. Ivie told the audience that one of the panelists was at a higher risk for suicide simply based on that person’s job.

People involved in the criminal justice system are indeed at higher risk of suicide, said Avon Police Chief Greg Daly, and in responding to grieving situations, the police must be the guardians of their own health. mental in addition to being the guardian of the community, he said.

Daly said his officers now undergo mental health checks, where “even if they come in and talk about football for an hour,” officers must speak to a mental health professional as part of their job. Daly compared it to a mental health version of the obstacle course that officers have to complete twice a year to verify that they are in good physical health.

Chris Lindley, population health manager for Vail Health and executive director of Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, said everyone should see a mental health professional once a year with a physical doctor.

“Exercise every day, seven days a week, whatever your movement, do it, as long as you do something, it’s awesome,” he said. “See your primary care provider every year. See your behavioral health therapist every year. If you have problems on the physical health side or the behavioral health side, work with your providers to resolve them. “

Professionals and the person next to you

A recent increase in services in Eagle County now makes it easier to see a mental health professional. Behavioral health has been integrated as part of primary care, with 19 new behavioral health providers added or coming to Colorado Mountain Medical’s primary care unit.

Many service improvements were made possible by a marijuana tax passed in 2017 that contributes $ 500,000 to $ 600,000 per year to Eagle County mental health services. The local SpeakUp suicide prevention group, ReachOut was formed with no full-time staff and now has four.

Eagle Valley Behavioral Health distributed $ 7 million in community efforts this year, and Olivia’s Fund now allows community members to get up to six free behavioral health care sessions.

The Vail Mind Center was established less than three years ago and now has 17 therapists on staff to help children with early intervention services. Psychological assessments provided to Vail Mind Center’s Edwards Institution save local families hours of driving and months on waiting lists, which can be crucial for children, said Casey Wolfington of Eagle Valley Behavioral Health.

Vail Health has added three full-time psychiatrists to its staff, two of whom are also board-certified to treat adolescent clients. The hospital is currently seeking permits to build “the first mental hospital in almost 20 years in the state,” Lindley said. The mental hospital aims to become a collaborative effort for “the first community mental health center designation in the state in 40 years,” which will bring more funding for suicide prevention and education to groups like SpeakUp. , ReachOut.

But in the midst of it all, one important service we shouldn’t overlook is the other, Hines said. In the years since his bridge jump, he created an emergency mental health plan for times when he is having thoughts of suicide.

“Whenever I’m suicidal, I turn to whoever is closest to me and say, ‘I need help now,'” Hines said. “I tell them exactly why I need help, what’s going on in my head and how long I’ve been dealing with these things. And they have always given me the help I need.

Hines shared a story of being at an airport and sharing her thoughts with airport security.

“They immediately did a threat assessment, and they were concerned for the safety of the passengers, but they took me to a back room, they felt I was not a danger to anyone else – than I was only a danger to myself – and they gave me the help I needed, “he said.” Because I asked for help. “

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