Kevin Hines starts a conversation about mental illness with UWF students

Kevin-Hines-photo-Cracked-Not-BrokenEmily Doyle

Staff Writer

Kevin Hines, a known mental wellness speaker, inspired people with his story on Wednesday when he spoke at the University of West Florida.

“Cracked, Not Broken: The Kevin Hines Story” drew about 150 people to the Commons Auditorium to hear his story and tips that have helped him “live mentally well.”

Looking at Hines, it is not obvious that he has ever struggled with bipolar disorder and depression, but after hearing his story, it became easier to see that mental illness is an invisible disease. Hines attempted suicide when he was 19 by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, feeling that it was his only option. He told the crowd of a pact he made with himself that if just one person asked him what was wrong, or reached out to him at all on his way to the bridge, he would not do it – yet no one said a word.

Members of Active Minds, a group of UWF students who promote suicide awareness and work to reduce the stigma of mental illness, were present at Hines’ speech. The group is grateful that he has dedicated his life to helping achieve the same goals that they themselves have.

Sonia Yanovsky, the incoming vice president of Active Minds, said, “I was pleased by the crowd that showed up to the event, and glad that more people are showing interest in things like what Kevin Hines had to say. He did an incredible job of balancing powerful, moving anecdotes with some dashes of humor, and he kept my rapt attention and the attention of everyone around me.”

Amelia Granados, an Active Minds member, said, “Only when everyone has their arms and hearts wide open, can you create a community to support and help each other reach a new pinnacle of positivity.”

“Being a part of Active Minds makes me realize that even though there are points in one’s life that can be unbearable to endure, there will always be someone out there waiting to help you achieve better. I love knowing that our club can reach out to the community and make any individual feel like they are not alone on their life journey,” Granados said.

Hines’ story is one of struggle, pain, and a man finding his lowest point in life and overcoming it to experience all life has to offer. According to Active Minds members, this makes him the perfect person to spread awareness of suicide and mental illness prevention.

“Kevin’s speech helped me to remember to appreciate all that I can do as a person for this club, reaching out and helping, in any way possible, to those who are suffering with their illnesses and needing another arm for support and love,” Granados said. “I’m so glad to have had an opportunity to hear this man speak.”

Hines is lucky to have survived the jump off the bridge and fully recover, as he is one of the few people who ever has. Because of this, he said he has discovered that he is surrounded by people who love him, and it is this knowledge that has helped him to achieve a sense of mental health.

Edward Morris, a UWF senior and Active Minds member, said, “These stories resonate because any one of us could have been Kevin Hines or any number of others who were pushed to the point where we saw no other option. Hines’ story illustrates that there is no such thing as a point of no return when it comes to thoughts of suicide while also highlighting the need to stay connected with the world around us.”

“At any moment any of us can be that person on the bus or at the bridge witnessing a fellow human in need of help, and a moment of awkward conversation is far preferable to a lifetime of regret of wondering, ‘What if…?’,” Morris said.

If you are interested in becoming a member of Active Minds, you can find out more about the group and how to participate by following their Facebook page.

If you are struggling with your mental health, you can make an appointment, without any fee, to see certified mental health counselors at the UWF Health and Wellness Center. You may contact them by calling (850) 474-2172 or by visiting Building 960.

If you are having suicidal thoughts and need to speak to someone immediately, the National Suicide Prevention hotline is (800) 273-TALK (8255).