The auditorium at the University of Pennsylvania was packed with students ready to hear a message of hope Monday.
Kevin Hines, a man who’s devoted his life to preventing suicide, visited the campus to speak about hope and recovery even after the darkest of times. The event had long been planned but the timing was apt: A Penn student died by suicide in early April — the 10th such student death in three years.
When Hines was 19 years old, he jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. His struggle with severe bipolar disorder had left him thinking that he — and everybody around him — would be better off. What happened next is the most important part of his story, he told the students.
“The second my hands left the rail, I felt this instant regret, and I had this recognition that I had just made the biggest mistake of my life,” he said. “And I thought it was too late.”
Despite serious injuries, he survived that fall in 2000.
Since then, Hines has traveled the world to talk about suicide prevention. He speaks to a lot of college students, and he encourages them to seek help if they are considering suicide.
“You need to tell the person you know loves you the most — because all they’ll want to do is keep you here, because you deserve to be here. We need you to stay because you matter,” he said.
Penn students started reaching out to Hines via email in the weeks leading up to his talk – asking for advice, support and help.
“If I can go to these places and share my message with the idea that just one individual finds a way to change their life, and chooses life — I can go home with a smile on my face,” he said.
Hines also talked about what he does to stay well now, emphasizing the importance of exercise, good nutrition and sleep.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255