Story of Hope: Golden Gate Bridge jump survivor shares inspirational message with Chequamegon studentsSubmitted: 02/12/2016

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PARK FALLS - Kevin Hines refers to the day he jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge as the day he was supposed to die.

"It was the worst moment of my entire existence," Hines said.

In 2000, Hines was 19 and suffering from severe bi-polar disorder, depression and hallucinations.  He threw himself over the railing, plunging 220 feet in a fall that has killed more than 1,700 people.  It was an action that filled Hines with instant regret.

"You realize how much you deserve to live and that this was a terrible mistake, but for most people it was too late," Hines said.

Hines miraculously survived. He decided to turn his mistake into a positive and started telling his story to people young and old all around the world.

"We know through studies that stories of hope can help people heal and find recovery if they include what that recovery was like and how you got there," Hines said.

This week, that story brought Hines to Chequamegon High School in Park Falls. He spoke to about 700 students, sharing his story and urging anyone struggling with mental issues to ask for help.

"I know the pain I experienced, or the pain that led me to that jump doesn't go away, it just transfers," Hines said. "If I was to going to die, it just transfers on to all of the people left behind forever.

People like Jeff and Jane Donner know that pain all too well.

"You're going to have your good days and bad days," Jeff Donner said Wedesnday afternoon. "We just call them 'Justin Days.'"

The Donners lost their son, Justin Paul, to suicide in 2005. They formed the JPD Warrior Project later that year, which offers a much-needed support system for people in rural northern Wisconsin.

"There was nothing like that up in this part of the woods and basically we just didn't want people to have to go through what we went through," Donner said.

The Donners host an annual fisheree in Justin's honor and use proceeds to help bring speakers like Hines to the area. Hines' speech to students in Park Falls Wednesday happened to fall on what would have been Justin's 33rd birthday.

"We always said... Are you helping anybody? We were really wondering, are you really helping anybody," Donner said. "And we just said if you don't do it at all I guess you re not helping anybody."

Hines knows programs like the Donners run do help. He says students are six times more likely to visit counselors after he visits a district. But Hines says sharing his story isn't about him.

"I'm a cog in the wheel," Hines said. "I'm this tiny piece of a movement of this bigger suicide prevention, global movement."

A piece of a global movement, brought to northern Wisconsin by a man who turned the day he was supposed to die into a lifetime of hope.

"I still have all my symptoms, I just know how to fight them and I know how to stay here," Hines said.

Hines is currently working on a documentary film called "Suicide: The Ripple Effect." It has an accompanying Facebook page where anyone can post. Hines tries to respond to each message himself. You can find a link to that page at the bottom of this story.

Hines says never be afraid to ask for help.

Related Weblinks:
The Ripple Effect

Story By: Lane Kimble

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