F-M community comes together to walk “Out of the Darkness”

by Ariana Babcock

babcockar@mnstate.edu

Kevin Hines released his grasp of the Golden Gate Bridge railing, hoping to end his life. He began the 220-foot fall from the San Francisco Bridge into the Golden Gate Strait waters. He immediately knew it was the worst decision of his life.

“At the moment my hands left the rail I had what is called an instant regret,” Hines said. “I realized my great mistake and I prayed that I would live, and I’m lucky that I did.”

After the approximately four second fall, Hines said he laid in the water and was kept afloat by a sea lion until the U.S. Coast Guard could rescue him. He went to the hospital with a broken back and underwent surgery. He now has four metal rods, a metal plate and a metal cage in his body, allowing him to walk each day. While his body felt broken at the time, he said this is when he really started to appreciate each day he was given.

“I’ve learned that if you come that close to death, and you find a way to realize that everything matters and everything has a purpose,” Hines said.

The 34 year old was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 17. At 19 years old, he survived his suicide attempt.

The mental health advocate, author and global speaker now shares his story with audiences to help others. He spoke in Fargo on Sept. 3 about his experience with mental illness and how stories of hope can heal.

“By sharing our stories with those who are suffering now, when you’ve triumphed over great adversity, those people can find the ability to relate to that story and thus they can find hope in it and maybe change their lives,” Hines said.

Hines isn’t the only one looking to spread awareness in the Fargo-Moorhead area. Brenda Weiler lost her sister, an MSUM grad, to suicide in 2005. The Weiler family hosted the 10th annual American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s “Out of the Darkness” walk on Sept. 13. This year they aimed to send people home with the feeling of hope.

“You have some significant event that happens and you feel you need to do something to help somebody else, so they don’t have to go through it,” Weiler said. 

The Weiler family hopes to raise $60,000 by the end of the year. The money goes towards national and local programs such as suicide prevention research, outreach and support groups. Weiler said, it’s important for people to know there’s support and help in the community.

“It’s just a huge opportunity for families to come out to be open about what happened to their family and to their loved one, to walk in solidarity with other people who have been through it,” Weiler said.

MSUM staff also believes it’s important to spread suicide awareness and prevention to young adults. The university handed out yellow ribbons and set up booths to spread awareness and remember loved ones during last weeks National Suicide Prevention week. Hendrix Clinic and Counseling Center Counselor, Miracle Hoff, said suicide awareness is essential among students.

“Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among college students and so it’s very relevant to them, and I think the awareness is really important,” Hoff said.

Hoff said campus and community events like “Out of the Darkness” can be beneficial by allowing people to talk about their problems and removing any stigma.

“The more you bring awareness and educate people, the better understanding they have of mental illness as not this horrible thing necessarily, but just something that needs to be taken care of,” Hoff said.

Whether it is taking care of families who have lost a loved one, or helping someone with a mental illness, Hines said it’s about bringing awareness into the community to save lives. 

“The mental health movement is larger than it has ever been before as well as the suicide prevention movement,” Hines said.  “To be able to be aware of it, to be educated about it, and to help promote it is something that everyone can do, because everyone has a role in suicide prevention and everyone has a role in helping someone stay alive.”

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will accept donations through Dec.

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