In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month I am excited to bring you a guest blog by Kevin Hines.
Kevin has reached international audiences with his story of an unlikely survival and will to live. When Kevin was 19-years old, two years after he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he attempted to take his own life by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. He is one of thirty-three to survive the fall and he is also the only survivor who is actively spreading the message of living mentally healthy around the country and the globe.
Since, Kevin has become an award-winning international speaker, author, and mental health advocate. In 2012, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding work as a suicide prevention advocate and speaker. He has also been recognized by SAMSHA as a Voice Awards Fellow and Award Winner, an Achievement Winner by Veterans Affairs, and he has received a Three Star Marine Generals Medal Award in addition to his numerous accolades.
Kevin’s will to live and stay mentally well has inspired hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. His compelling story has touched diverse audiences on university campuses, organizations, corporations, clergy, military, clinicians, the medical community, community organizations, and international conferences. Cracked… Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt is his first book and will be released on July 16, 2013.
It takes a Network for us to Heal
By Kevin Hines
When you are an advocate and public speaker and addressing mental health issues as your life’s work, people approach you and tell you things they have never told anyone besides immediate family or therapists. Sometimes you are the first person they’ve told period. It is an honor to be a sounding board for such families and individuals all over the world.
After addressing an audience a few years ago, I met a woman named “Angie” who had been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. In the year before her diagnosis, she had attempted to take her own life. When I met “Angie,” she had just started therapy that week. It had literally been seven days since she stopped her practice of self-mutilation.
“Angie” told me about her struggles: about how she would take a knife and sharpen it for what seemed like hours. One time she cut herself, she deliberately sliced into her arm to end her life. Her desperation was fueled by sexual assault in her childhood by distant relatives– a fact she never told anyone about. Luckily, she she sent text messages to her best friend, “Bris.” The texts were mostly gibberish and incoherent and “Bris” immediately sensed that something was wrong. She rushed to “Angie’s” aid. It was a miracle, but “Bris” arrived in the nick of time to save her friends life
“Angie,” embarrassed and ashamed of what she did, never told anyone in her family. She didn’t tell her friends, her mother, father,. Only “Bris” knew about her secret, and eventually her boyfriend did as well. They would become her “support network”– they check on her every chance they get. People in a situation living with a mental illness or contemplating suicide need that network of support.
More importantly, her support network understood the importance of vigilance. Every day, her boyfriend and “Bris” inspect her regular cutting areas. They also make sure she sees a psychologist and psychiatrist on a weekly basis. She is on psychiatric medications which balance out her mood and her psychosis. It is very evident that she struggles on a daily basis with depression and she told me that her Grandfather died by suicide many years ago.
Yet, with all that struggle, each day becomes brighter as “Angie” is reminded by her “support network” of the good things in life: she loves children and is pursuing a degree in child psychology. Today, she tutors children and volunteers with young girls who have been sexually abused. Her title is “Peer Rape Crisis Councilor.” She told me that, she is reminded of her own suicide attempt when she works with rape victims who contemplate suicide themselves. She tries desperately not to ponder the idea again. Her tactic for survival is to say to herself
“Do you love yourself? I love you, please love yourself.
“Angie” is winning the game of life, due to her small but crucial support network, the same way I am as well, with family, friends, and all the care those people bring, people like Angie and me stay mentally well most days. With treatment from professionals in the field of mental/behavioral health we live life to its fullest, and fight diligently to stay above ground. For me and “Angie”, suicidal thoughts can come around often
The difference between those who attempt or die by suicide and those who don’t is that we know when we have ideations of suicide to tell our network so we can get immediate care. This is something all people who wish to conquer these battles should do.
I am so glad to be a sounding board for people like “Angie”, I am glad my story can inspire others to tell theirs. This is my goal and my dream, to help as many people as I possibly can.