Suicide Awareness Month

Chris Sinclair | Staff Photographer

On Monday, Jan. 15, ASUCI hosted the Suicide Awareness and Prevention program in Crystal Cove Auditorium of the Student Center. Guest speaker Kevin Hines, an advocate for suicide prevention who himself had struggled with suicidal tendencies caused by mental conditions, told his story before the band Friends of Emmet performed their hope-inspiring music for the audience.

“Ask yourself: How is your mental health?” Hines began.

Kevin Hines was born in San Francisco and his birth parents, Marcia Silvera and Martino Ferales, suffered from poverty and drug addiction. Both were diagnosed with manic depression, known today as bipolar disorder.

After they were left unattended at a motel, Hines and his brother Jordash were taken away from their parents by protective custody when a hotel clerk called the police; they were then put into the foster care system. Jordash died from bronchitis shortly after. He was adopted by Patrick and Deborah Hines.

Hines later developed bipolar disorder with psychotic features, a condition that caused him to suffer from paranoia and intense hallucination, leading him to develop a severe form of depression and an obsession with death.

“I was so depressed that I began to think of suicide. I began to think it was my only option,” Hines said. “Suicide is never the solution to any problems, ever. Period. It’s just that simple, but I didn’t see that. I was in what clinicians called a tunnel vision. I only saw death, a tiny circle and I kept walking towards that circle. I must have written eight different copies of my suicide note. I wrote it to my friends, my family, my girlfriend at the time. In my note, I begged them for their forgiveness, I told them that I loved them.”

After much deliberation, Hines was in such a state of mind that he looked on the Internet for ways to die. He wanted to commit suicide by jumping off of the Golden Gate Bridge, believing at the time that it would grant him instantaneous death.

“The nature of suicide doesn’t make sense. Part of me wanted to live, yet an angry, mean part of me wanted to die,” continued Hines. “I made a pact with myself that if one person comes up to me and goes ‘Are you okay? Is something wrong? Can I help you?’ I would have told them everything. But the question was, would they have listened to a complete stranger babble on about their suicidal thoughts?”

On one fateful day, Hines took the bus to the Golden Gate Bridge, climbed over the railing and leapt off, plunging nearly 250 ft into the water. As his hands left the rail, Hines realized that he didn’t want to die, that it was some compulsion of his mental condition that made him obsessed with death and not his own rational thoughts. Hines survived the fall, being one of 31 to ever do so (a 2 percent of the number of jumpers recorded at the Golden Gate Bridge). Hines’ impact with the water broke several bones in his body, but his life was saved by a sea lion that helped keep him afloat when it detected his thrashing in the water.

“If you see someone on this campus, in your life, within your family, among your friends who is obviously in a great deal of emotional, mental, or physical pain, don’t just walk on by like they don’t exist!” Hines concluded to the crowd. “Please, ask them the questions: ‘Are you okay? Is something wrong?’ Can I help you?’ You might just save their life.”

“I thought this event brought a lot of insight on the topic of suicide, which I think is a hot topic on college campuses,” said Grace Poon, vice president of Student Services in ASUCI. “There aren’t that many suicide awareness and prevention campaigns brought to the UCI campus. I really hope that this sparks an interest in preventing future suicides from happening, especially since we recently had a suicide over winter break.”

“This is an amazing campus,” said Mark Leddy, lead singer of Friends of Emmet.

Friends of Emmet are an Irish American rock band consisting of lead singer Mark Leddy, guitarist Brian Lynam, bass guitarist Keith Geraghty, Paul Demsey on the keyboard, and Gary Sullivan on the drums. The band started off in Ireland, and later reunited in America, acquiring new members. They recently released their new, debut album Coming Apart, the title song having been inspired by Kevin Hines’ touching story.

“He makes you want to jump onboard on the bandwagon,” said Leddy about Hines. “He makes you want to try to do something, and to try to help.”

“I hope that students take home the idea that there is always hope, there is always a future,” Hines said. “I would like to say to the UCI students that no matter what is in front of you that is painful, difficult, and destructive, find good coping mechanism, find hope and find a positive future, living mentally well.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK. The local number is 1-877-727-4747. Kevin Hines has his own website advocating for suicide awareness at www.KevinHinesstory.com.