I am so excited about this next Q&A. Mental health has been in the forefront in all media outlets recently. Because of COVID-19, this topic hits close to home because I suffer from bipolar 1 disorder. In my journey I looked for inspiration to get through my struggles. Learning about my next interviewee gives me so much joy, and it’s an honor to speak to a man that is educating people about mental health. Here is my Q&A with author, advocate, and motivational speaker, Kevin Hines.
Hello Kevin, thank you for taking the time out to speak with me and congratulations on the documentary “Stay Alive.” Tell me why it’s important for people to see this documentary?
First, thank you so very much for allowing me this wonderful opportunity to share our collective “Stay Alive” message of hope. (The release date for the film is 8/5/22.) It is so important for anyone contemplating suicide to see this documentary because it helps people recognize within them the power to commit to life. To #BeHereTomorrow and every single day after that. The film breaks down barriers between brain pain and finding the resilience to live well.
As someone who has tried to take your own life and has lived to tell the story what is different in your perception in not wanting to end it, but to have found purpose in living and sharing your message?
As someone who has survived with a less than 1% chance from a means that has a 99%+ fatality rate, I feel incredibly blessed to exist, period. I’m not recovered…I still have chronic thoughts of suicide. Today rather than act on those thoughts, I recognize that my thoughts do not have to become my actions. Suicide is never the solution to my problems; it is the problem. Every time I am suicidal these days, I turn to the first person near me (literally) and say four simple but effective words…
“I NEED HELP NOW!” This September 25th will be my 22nd year anniversary since I leapt off the Golden Gate Bridge and I have stayed alive with regular thoughts of suicide by being self-aware of my diagnosed Bipolar and my suicidal thinking. It doesn’t have to own, rule, or define what I do next. My newfound perspective is clear. I get to be here and getting to be here is a privilege and a gift.
There is a big stigma about mental health and a lot of people with mental illness feel shame and are scared to let people know about their condition. What advice can you give them?
Stigma is not the right word. It’s lacking. We don’t call prejudice, bigotry, and hatred stigma, we call it prejudice, bigotry, and hatred. What is happening to those struggling daily with mental illness is purely discrimination based on something completely out of their control. Mental Illness or what I like to call Brain Pain and addictions are the only two diseases we still blame people for. Would you tell someone with liver, heart, lung, or kidney disease to “Snap out of it!” “Get over it!” “Move on!” or “It’s all in your head!” No way! You’d show up at the hospital with a teddy bear, flowers, empathy, and care. You’d do everything in your power to make the person feel better, and you’d do anything to help them find healing. Why can’t we do the same thing for brain health? The brain is an organ just like every other organ in the body and it too can become diseased. My advice to those who feel shame and are scared to let people know of their condition, be bold, be true, and never again silence your pain. Your pain is valid, your pain is worthy of my time and others, and your pain matters simply because you do. You are worth it so don’t hold back, no matter the reactions and misperceptions of others.
You’ve written a book called “Cracked not Broken.” How has that changed your life?
My book “Cracked Not Broken: Surviving & Thriving After a Suicide Attempt” has helped me find my voice. It also helped me meet, and read, and hear from hundreds of thousands of people who have been positively affected by it. They tell me after reading it their lives are changed forever sometimes saved. The written and spoken word are incredible in that way. Just like a movie can traverse you into a brand new and unbelievable world, so to can a book. Stories are 22 times more memorable than statistics or facts. I am a storyteller at heart. That book was just the beginning. Now my wife and I are embarking on things like the recent release of our own documentary Suicide the Ripple Effect which chronicles my journey meeting advocates around the world and sharing our journey of hope. We are working on building a film production company dedicated to helping everyone with their brain, mind, behavioral, and physical health. One where we are set to create multifaceted entertainment that educates and changes lives eternally. We are even slated to work on the cosmic version of my life in a comic called Hope Dealers, a story much like my own filled with cosmic wonder and visuals that so many comic lovers can find hope and glean from.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your teen-aged self?
Oh boy. Well, I’d simply say Kevin, life is going to be hard, but your will power and resilience are tougher than you think. Just because you are in a world of pain today, and may even be in often, that does not equate to the rest of your life. You are a gift to this world. I promise you suicide is not the answer. You’ve got this. It’s worth it, and I’ve GOT you!
Who or what inspires you to keep going?
I’m incredibly inspired by people who lay their pain bare, all on the line for the world to see. I am so moved by those who tell the story of their personal battles in life, how they found hope, and how they continue on. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has had a massive effect on my personal wellbeing. His honesty about his mental health as such a proud and public figure has on many occasions moved me to tears, and then helped me remain in resilience and helped me on many occasions remain alive. I believe in giving people they’re flowers while their still here. I hope one day to meet the man, the myth, the legend he is, shake his hand and simply say thank you. The Rock helped save my life.
If you could change one thing in the world what would it be?
Not a thing. What will be will be, this is what has been made me the man I am today. Everything happens for a reason. I’m just so glad I survived. My message to others though, don’t learn the hard way like I did. Choose life before you try an attempt on yours and ask, plead, and beg for help instead of attempting at all.
Thank you for your time, Kevin. Any additional words of wisdom to all the readers?
If you have related to anything I’ve put down here, please consider finding someone willing to empathize and ask for help. You deserve it. You are worthy, you do matter, you are important, and I know I don’t know you, but you are important to me. If no one else says it today (because I recognize a lot of you out there are growing up in broken and abusive homes) I love, you and I want you to stay.
If in Crisis immediately dial 988 or text CNQR to 741-741 for trained crisis counselors. Stay safe, do the hard work to heal, and whatever you do always #BEHERETOMORROW
Photos: Courtesy of Kevin Hines