A man who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and survived will lead a suicide prevention walk in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park this weekend.
Kevin Hines is one of 33 people to survive a jump off of the famous span, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI. He made the suicide attempt on Sept. 25, 2000, at age 19.
After surviving, Hines, who is bipolar, became an advocate for suicide prevention and mental health awareness and is leading NAMI's 5K fundraising walk on Saturday.
Check-in for the free walk, which has a 2K route option, begins at 9 a.m. at Lindley Meadow near 30th Avenue and John F. Kennedy Drive.
Hines, a San Francisco resident, will speak at the opening ceremony around 10:30 a.m., touching on his message that it is possible to live a full, active life despite mental illness and the importance of staying connected to supportive people.
"It may sound cliche, but there is hope, there is help," Hines said in a phone interview today. "You can heal while having a mental illness."
He wrote a memoir detailing his experiences growing up in San Francisco's foster care system, his eventual adoption, and his diagnosis as bipolar as a teenager. The book, which will be released this summer, is titled "Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt." It describes time he spent in psych wards and his eventual jump off the bridge.
He reflected today on the process of writing the book and becoming a speaker on suicide prevention across the country and the globe. "I didn't know the power of the spoken word," he said.
He said he has since seen the impact his story has had on those struggling with mental health problems.
One focus of Saturday's event will be the prevalence of suicide among members of the military and how to provide resources to struggling veterans. According to NAMI, an active duty soldier commits suicide every 36 hours, and a veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes.
The walk, which starts at 11 a.m., helps raise funds to provide free mental health services throughout the Bay Area, including in San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.
"NAMI provides free help when people don't know where to turn," the nonprofit's spokeswoman Gina Snow said.
Hines said he took advantage of NAMI programming in San Francisco when he and his father were not coping well with understanding the impact of Hines' disorder.
"He learned a great deal," Hines said of his father, and eventually the two began to connect more.
Hines said living with mental illness "takes a great deal of work." "You have to accept that mental illness is real," he said. "You have to fight for wellness."
In previous years, thousands have participated in the walk, which raises money through corporate sponsors and team fundraising efforts. More than $420,000 was raised at last year's event, organizers said.
More information on the walk can be found online at www.namiwalksfbay.org.
Those seeking help with depression or mental illness can call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).