Kevin Hines, Golden Gate Bridge survivor
March 5, 2015 2:00 AM   Subscribe

In September 2000, a teenager suffering from Bipolar Disorder named Kevin Hines attempted suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. A confluence of fortunate events (such as a Good Samaritan Sea Lion) came together and Kevin not only survived but did not suffer major mobility loss, as many other people who survive the fall do. Today he works as a suicide prevention/mental health awareness advocate and has authored a memoir. He is featured in the 2006 documentary The Bridge.
posted by MattMangels (10 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I still don't understand the mindset of folks against the suicide prevention barrier. Why wouldn't you want to do that?
posted by leotrotsky at 5:57 AM on March 5, 2015

leotrotsky: "I still don't understand the mindset of folks against the suicide prevention barrier. Why wouldn't you want to do that?"

I am with you leotrotsky, but Kevin's mother feels differently.

She [Kevin's mother] is opposed to a barrier. As a nurse specializing in kids at risk, she thinks the money would be better spent on treating mental illness. "When you're hearing voices, you're psychotic," she says. "You have a chemical imbalance in your brain. All bets are off. You're not going to fix that with a barrier."
posted by 724A at 7:01 AM on March 5, 2015

While I'd agree with Kevin's mom that the state of mental health treatment in the US is abysmal, if a barrier is something that there's money and the will to do then do it. The people featured in The Bridge (including Kevin) were consumed by their illness and were in dire need of some kind of intervention. Ideally it would be medical treatment, but take what you can get.

I live near the main jumping bridge in Seattle and several years ago a barrier was installed, and it seems to have worked. It's hard to tell because they never report on these things, but it seems like the number of jumpers has pretty much gone to zero.

The other usual argument is that it'a a waste of money because people will just go somewhere else or use some other means, but my understanding is that has been pretty well debunked.
posted by sevenless at 7:21 AM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah. Suicide is usually impulsive. Put a (literal or figurative) barrier in the way, and it prevents deaths. I don't seem to recall any real public objection to the installation of the terribly-named Luminous Veil here in Toronto.

"You have a chemical imbalance in your brain. All bets are off. You're not going to fix that with a barrier."

Yeah. And when the voices are saying "jump off this bridge," the barrier prevents that. Seriously, this is a no-brainer, and I would love to see legislation requiring barriers to be integrated in all new bridge construction.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:21 AM on March 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I read his book late last year. Really interesting read, although it could have been better edited, felt a little repetitive with chapters having the same information as the previous one.

On the whole suicide barrier debate, yeah, seems like a no brainer to me. I read "Myths about suicide" by Thomas Joiner and in that he argues that preventing someone in the short-term can often lead to them reconsidering their actions and not actually committing suicide.
posted by Fence at 11:14 AM on March 5, 2015

Legalized, physician-assisted suicide would eliminate the need for suicide barriers.
posted by telstar at 1:29 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well, no, it wouldn't. Unless you're talking about simply being able to get a prescription for a Futurama-style execution booth.

I come down really, really far on the side of physician-assisted suicide, and feel it's something that every human being who can form consent (which, to a point, includes terminally-ill children) should have access to.

However, depression is a special case, because it's quite literally the illness speaking when you want to kill yourself. A sober and rational look at one's life and chances, and real attempts at treatment, are what's needed there.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:43 PM on March 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

And barriers may also be a disincentive to people like the bloke who threw his six-year-old daughter off the West Gate Bridge, in front of her brothers, a few years ago.
posted by andraste at 4:12 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't know about the barrier. I can say (as a bipolar person) that jumping off the bridge would probably not be impulsive. It would be a thoughtful choice. It would be a very public way to go, and you would matter. Your existence would be known. Your pain would be known. If the bridge wasn't an option, there'd be another.

A couple other things- I think the movie The Bridge is a voyeuristic piece of crap. The guy who filmed it probably slows down to check out car wrecks. However, I was struck by the young survivor who said that on the way down he realized that the only thing in his life he couldn't change was the fact that he'd just jumped. I'm alive because of that.

And lastly, anytime, and not just on the bridge, if someone looks distressed, use the most important four words in the English language, "Can I help you?".
posted by puddinghead at 5:49 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, this is what Kevin had to say about The Bridge when it first came out:
Hines calls the controversial documentary a positive influence, and believes in the filmmakers' goal to expose the high number of suicides that take place at one locale and officials' failure to erect suicide barriers.

"It shows the truth about the fact that these are beautiful people with terrible issues that a lot of people want to just shove under the rug," the 25-year-old said. "And no longer after this movie can you shove this under the rug."
posted by MattMangels at 12:33 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

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