by Kristina Vakhman
Kevin Hines paced the Golden Gate Bridge for half an hour before hurling himself over the railing and down to the water that has swallowed the bodies of more than 1,600 people. Though Hines had gone to the bridge to commit suicide, he found himself heavily regretting the leap.
“As I fell at 75 miles per hour, I somehow possessed the mindset that all I wanted to do was live—by any means necessary,” Hines wrote in his book “Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt.”
Central Connecticut students piled onto two buses last Wednesday to see Hines’ story at the AMC Plainville 20 Theater for the movie “Suicide: The Ripple Effect,” which follows Hines’ life as a mental health advocate for hope, recovery and wellness after that fateful decision to take his own life when he was 19.
According to Kate Ayotte, the event’s organizer and Wellness Programs Administrator for Suicide Prevention at CCSU’s Office of Wellness Education, the movie viewing was aimed at highlighting the stories of those who have persevered after a suicide attempt.
“A lot of times, when people are telling stories about suicide or suicide prevention, they’re always exemplifying stories of people who died [because of] suicide,” Ayotte said. “I think that the stories of people surviving [and] thriving even after going through mental health challenges are the stories that need to be told because that’s what gives people hope. There are so many of those stories that aren’t being told.”
Ayotte met Hines last year at a Jordan Porco Foundation gala, an organization which promotes suicide prevention and services for young adults, and said that the encounter made her really want to get the film shown to CCSU students.
“It was really impactful,” Ayotte said with a large smile on her face. “He’s such an inspiring person.”
Before heading off to the theater, Dr. Jonathan Pohl, coordinator for the Office of Wellness Education, stated that he believed students would be amazed that Hines not only survived the fall, but also that he was now working to help others.
“[Students will] carry the message forward that there’s hope and that hope helps heal,” Pohl said. “[The movie is] to raise awareness of suicide prevention [and] getting suicide to be de-stigmatized so people ask for help instead of keeping it inside, feeling hopeless and not feeling like there’s a way out.”
Though 85 people signed up to go on the trip, as told by Ayotte, not everyone showed up. Those who did, had different reasons for coming.
“I just thought that, at this point in the semester, it’s really important to work on mental health,” Marion Jainchill, a junior secondary education English major, said. “You can work to understand mental health for the sake of helping others as well as helping yourself. It’s important to both know what to look for yourself and how to help yourself as well as to look for signs in other people if they need help.”
Carl Heffermehl, a junior majoring in criminology and psychology, explained that he could “relate on a personal note” and that, additionally, the movie would help with his career aspirations.
“I’m planning on being a clinical psychologist, so it’s important for me to go,” Heffermehl said. “Whenever I hear about these things on campus, I make it an effort to go.”
Gut-wrenching and tear-inducing, the movie exposed students to the harsh reality of suicide’s negative ripple effects. Hines’ interviews with the United States Coast Guard who pulled him out of the water, with the nurse who put his broken body back together, with his shaken family and with family members who’d lost loved ones to the Golden Gate Bridge all showed how suicide not only takes a victim’s life, but also takes the lives that those close to them had led before their deaths.
Yet, the movie possessed an air of positivity. As he was drowning in the San Fransisco Bay, Hines was kept afloat by what he later learned was a sea lion; his survival prompted him to share his story and to span the globe to spread the message that brain health is important, as shown in the movie by his trips around the U.S. and Australia.
“Suicide: The Ripple Effect” ultimately conveyed the message that efforts to prevent suicide and to assist those suffering have positive ripple effects. At the end, “#BeHereTomorrow” glowed on the screen as a track of the same name played.
No matter students’ initial reasons for going, their main takeaway upon leaving the theater was clear: there is hope.
“The things that [Hines] said, you would never really expect to come from somebody who [went through that and] survived and actually doing something about it and traveling all over the place and getting people involved. I think that’s very inspirational and very moving,” sophomore Morgan Sinton said after the film. “It’s very important to talk about and not keep it inside of you because there are many people out there that want to help, and that are there for you if you just speak up.”
“Keep hoping,” Heffermehl said. “Remember that you’re not the only one going through the struggle that you’re going through. As hard [as it is] and as much as it may seem you’re alone, you’re really not.”
To find out more about Kevin Hines, visit www.kevinhinesstory.com. To find a screening of “Suicide: The Ripple Effect,” go to suicidetherippleeffect.com.
If you or anyone you know is struggling, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text 741741. Help is also available at Student Wellness Services. All of these resources are free and confidential.