‘You could be the catalyst for saving a life’
Kevin Hines encourages outreach in times of emotional distress
Three questions could be the difference between life and death for someone experiencing a mental health crisis.
“Are you OK? Is something wrong? Can I help you?”
Kevin Hines wishes someone had asked him those words before he jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge in 2000, he said in a keynote speech for a virtual Longevity Project event on Sept. 21.
He encourages others to “be bold” and reach out when they see signs of distress in others, asking those questions that he himself “desperately needed to hear” nearly two decades ago in San Francisco.
“You could be the catalyst for saving a life,” he said.
Hines was suffering from “lethal emotional pain,” a “common denominator” among those who attempt suicide, he said.
But in a course of events Hines considers nothing short of a miracle — he did not die upon impact with the water, nor did he drown; after surfacing, Hines was kept afloat by a sea lion until the Coast Guard rescued him from the bay — he survived that suicide attempt and now dedicates his life to suicide prevention and mental health advocacy.
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to drive discussion about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year’s project focuses on mental health. The Aspen Times and Glenwood Springs Post-Independent partnered to explore topics in mental health including resources (Aug. 26), substance use (Sept. 3), suicide prevention (Sept. 10) and law enforcement (Sept. 17).
Our project culminated with events Sept. 20 in Rifle and on Zoom with a panel discussion of local leaders and speaker Kevin Hines.
That pain didn’t go away with time, Hines said. But living with it is far better than not living at all. Hines felt “instantaneous regret” in the moment after he jumped from the bridge; he now feels gratitude for his second chance and for the change in perspective that the opportunity to keep living provided.
“I knew in that moment that no matter the pain I would be in, I would never again attempt to take my life so long as I would live,” Hines said. “I knew in that moment I’d been given a second chance, I knew in that moment that I get to be here, and getting to be here is a privilege and a gift, no matter the pain you’re in.”
Hines still experiences suicidal ideations, but he realized “our thoughts don’t have to own, rule or define what happens next; they can simply be our thoughts.”
“They plague me, but they’ll never take me,” Hines said, in part because of that notion that thoughts do not have to equal actions and because he knows to ask for help when that lethal emotional pain comes bearing down.
After so much time silencing and burying pain, Hines said he learned that sharing it lessened its weight.
“You must now recognize today that your pain is valid, your pain is worthy of my time and others’, and our pain matters simply because all of you do,” Hines said. “When we silence our pain and we bury it, the feeling bubbles and festers and grows until it bursts. … When you share your pain, a pain shared becomes a pain halved.”
Aspen Strong executive director Angilina Taylor agrees, and it’s especially important with the rising mental health concerns that come with the stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said during a post-keynote panel.
“Mental health really kind of got catapulted into the front of people’s minds through the pandemic, which was an unfortunate way for it to happen but I think that so many more of us are sharing our stories and and sharing what’s actually going on with us, which I think in the long run will help us all,” Taylor said.
Keeping the conversation open — and practicing check-ins with oneself and one another — is part of the crucial and ongoing effort to prevent suicide attempts before they happen, said panelist Kate Moyer, the behavioral health coordinator at Aspen Valley Hospital.
“I think really focusing on on tiny little moments that we have in terms of talking with each other can be hugely helpful in just trying to create some of those ripple effects that are really key to spreading awareness and knowledge about what it looks like maybe to not be okay, … the goal being that we can prevent a crisis from happening,” Moyer said.
The pain itself may be “inevitable,” Hines said in his keynote. “It’s coming for all of us if it hasn’t already.”
But “suffering is optional, a choice. … If you instead decide to live with, fight, battle and thrive in spite of your condition or issue, that makes you the hero of your own story, never to suffer again,” he said.
24-hour crisis hotlines
If someone is an immediate risk to themselves or others, call 911.
Additional crisis support is available via the Aspen Hope Center and Colorado Crisis Services.
Aspen Hope Center: Call 970-925-5858 for the Aspen Hopeline or 970-945-3728 for the Garfield Hopeline. Visit aspenhopecenter.org for more information.
Colorado Crisis Services: Call 844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255. Visit coloradocrisisservices.org for more information.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 800-273-8255. Visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org for more information.
Counseling, therapy, case management and mental health support
Aspen Strong: Call 970-718-2842 or visit the provider directory at directory.aspenstrong.org. Use the “Issues” category of the filter tool to see providers valley-wide who specialize in specific needs.
Mountain Family Health Center: Call 945-2840 or visit mountainfamily.org/behavioral-health.
Mind Springs Health: Call the Aspen office at 970-920-5555 or the Glenwood Springs office at 970-945-2583 or visit mindspringshealth.org.
Inpatient psychiatric treatment in Grand Junction at West Springs Hospital. Call 970-263-4918 for an admission assessment.
Pitkin County Public Health offers a guide to mental health resources at pitkincounty.com/mentalhealth.
School-based child and family resources
Aspen Family Connections: Call 970-205-7025 or visit aspenfamilyconnections.org.
Family Resource Center: Call 970-384-9500 for the Roaring Fork office or 970-285-5701 for the Parachute office
Peer support, community and healing hubs
Aperture of Hope: Call 970-948-3621 or visit apertureofhope.com for peer support and recovery resources.
Discovery Cafe: Call 719-650-5978, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit discoverycafe.org for support and a safe place to seek resources. Discovery Cafe is located at the Colorado Mountain College Rifle campus at 3695 Airport Road, Rifle.
Pathfinders: Call 970-925-1226 or visit pathfindersforyou.org for support with chronic illness, grief and loss.
Meetings and Gathering Places
Colorado Alcoholics Anonymous District 14 (Glenwood Springs to Aspen, Vail to Parachute): Call 970-245-9649 or 888-333-9649 or visit coaadistrict14.org/meetings.
The Meeting Place: Visit meetingplacecarbondale.org/meetings-1 or stop by 981 Cowen Drive, Carbondale.
Narcotics Anonymous Mountain West Division (Aspen, Basalt, Breckenridge, Carbondale, Eagle, Glenwood Springs, Leadville, Rifle, Vail Valley): Call 970-306-6535 or visit nacolorado.org/mountainwest/MWMeetingList.pdf.
Narcan Access and Training
High Rockies Harm Reduction: Visit highrockiesharmreduction.com. In the event of an overdose emergency, call 911.