Suicide survivor Kevin Hines to deliver the keynote address at Story County's Mental Health Expo

Ronna Faaborg
Ames Tribune
Kevin Hines will be the keynote speaker at the Story County Mental Health Expo on Tuesday, Sept. 21. Hines' message, "Be Here Tomorrow: The Ripple Effect of Suicide," is inspired by his failed suicide attempt in 2000, when he jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge.

Suicide survivor Kevin Hines has a powerful story to tell, and that’s what makes him the perfect keynote speaker for the seventh annual Story County Mental Health Expo, according to event organizers.

On Sept. 25, 2000, struggling with bipolar disorder, Hines decided to commit suicide, said Geri Derner, a member of the expo's organizing committee.

“He decided it was time, and he didn’t want to live his life," Derner said. "He was going to go jump from the Golden Gate Bridge.”

With the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, Kevin Hines shows his gratitude for surviving his suicide attempt in 2000. After jumping, Hines was aided by a sea lion that helped him stay afloat until the Coast Guard could reach him.

But he made a pact with himself that if he received even one small act of kindness as he made his way to the bridge, he wouldn't jump, she said. He watched the people around him on his walk to the bus stop, the ride on the bus, the lengthy walk to the bridge.

“If anybody along the way offered him a kind word, friendly eyes — anything that would give him hope — then he wouldn’t go through with his plan,” Derner said.

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But there was no eye contact, no “Hi” or “Hello,” so Hines went through with it.

He jumped, falling 245 feet, hitting the water at about 75 mph.

“The minute he left the railing, he regretted it,” Derner said. “But you can’t go back.”

Kevin Hines official logo includes an image of a sea lion, a homage to the marine mammal that helped him survive his suicide attempt in 2000.

Knowing his only chance for survival was to hit the water feet first, Hines managed to get his body into that position.

“He had several broken bones — broke his foot, broke his back. It was a horrible impact,” Derner said. “But what kept him alive was a miracle.”

A sea lion came to Hines’ rescue, floating below him, keeping him above water until the Coast Guard arrived.

“When you go to the Kevin Hines official website, you see that his logo has a sea lion in it,” Derner said. “He knows that that sea lion is what saved him.”

As a survivor, Hines is now a professional speaker and filmmaker.

“Kevin is such a hot commodity in the world of public speaking and mental health advocacy, we likely could not afford his fees if we waited to have him in person,” Derner said. “We decided to capitalize on the fact that we were going to go virtual and, if we got the word out there, that people would come to our online event to hear it.”

The speech will be available online for three weeks after the live event.

The Story County Mental Health Expo, "An Evening of Hope & Healing," will be held online Tuesday, Sept. 21.

Prior to the keynote speech, guests can check out more than 25 resource vendors, which will be visible on a virtual map.

“They're all local — either from the community or the university — with a focus on mental health or recovery,” Derner said. “September is National Recovery Month, which is why we always hold this event in September.

“People sometimes think recovery is all about substance abuse but, in reality, mental health is a recovery process, as well, so we combine the two into the Mental Health Expo.”

More:Polk County adds crisis services for children who need mental health help but not hospitalization

In the middle of the map is a stage, and that is where Hines' address will be viewable.

“He will be live, so we encourage people to come in at 5 o’clock and go around the perimeter of the map, looking at resources,” she said. “And then, at 6, click on the stage to see Kevin, with his message titled, ‘Be Here Tomorrow.’ ”

Kevin Hines will be the keynote speaker at the Story County Mental Health Expo on Tuesday, Sept. 21. The expo will be held online, but Hines' speech will be livestreamed and will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

Want to go?

The Story County Mental Health Expo starts at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 21, where Hines’ speech will start at 6 p.m. and be followed by a question-and-answer session.

The Story County Mental Health Expo: An Evening of Hope & Healing can be found at StoryCountyMHExpo.com. It’s a free event and is open to people anywhere. “Since it’s virtual, it doesn’t matter where you are,” Derner said. “The resources are local, but the message is global.”