Suicide attempt survivor, author is keynote speaker at fundraiser

BREMERTON — Kitsap Mental Health Services will play host to filmmaker Kevin Hines, who is also an author and suicide attempt survivor, at a May 12 event called “An Evening with Kevin Hines,” aimed at raising awareness of mental health issues and fundraise for the Crisis Clinic of the Peninsulas.

“He has a phenomenal story to tell about his own journey through mental illness and bipolar disorder, and what eventually drove him to try to commit suicide,” KMHS’ Monica Bernhard said.

“He said … as soon as he jumped, he realized he wanted to live. He did survive, and since that time he has used his story to educate other people on not only suicide itself, [but] what leads people to that and how to recover from an event like that.”

In September 2000, Hines became one of the few individuals who ever survived a suicide attempt off the Golden Gate Bridge. In the years that followed, Hines decided to use his story as a “bridge of hope” to the many mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, spouses and friends who lived through similar acts committed by their loved ones.

As the keynote speaker, he will speak candidly about the pain of living with mental illness and the complex conditions that contributed to his decision to attempt taking his own life.

Hines has since authored the book “Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt.” Learn more about Hines at www.kevinhines.com.

Proceeds from this event will support the Crisis Clinic of the Peninsulas, which is an always-open clinic that provides over-the-phone crisis intervention, information referral and supportive listening ears to people in this community who are experiencing situational distress. Their 24-hour hotline is at 360-479-3033 or 800-843-4793. Learn more at crisisclin icofthepeninsulas.org.

This event is being held during Mental Health Awareness Month and will include recognition for the volunteers at the Crisis Clinic, who help guide people through difficult times related to mental illness. Bernhard said the clinic received 625 calls in 2017 related to suicide (out of a total of 4,125 crisis calls in the county). There were 34 suicides in Kitsap County.

“Our community, like any other community, has a number of people that are challenged with mental illness,” Bernhard said.

“There’s a lot of people struggling silently with depression and mental illness. (This event is) an opportunity for individuals, family members, friends — anybody who’s struggling — to really get that insight on the act of suicide and what leads people to that, to broaden our understanding of the pain they’re dealing with.”

Mental Health Aware-ness Month, Bernhard said, is nationally recognized.

“It’s intended to try and help de-stigmatize mental illness,” she said. “A lot of people either feel alone in their mental illness, not realizing how pervasive it is … or they think of it only in the extremes.”

She said mental illnesses are much more “pervasive” than most people think. One in five adults in the United States will struggle with mental illness, and one in 25 will suffer from serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression or others. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the country.

“It’s really much more common than people think, and I think people are often afraid of mental illness (because) there’s a tendency to associate mental illness with violence, and that’s one of the big misperceptions. (However), people with mental illness are 10 times more likely to be victims … 3 percent to 5 percent of all violent acts are attributed to mental illness,” Bernhard said.

“The purpose of mental health awareness is really trying to build the community’s understanding of what’s included. Another big misperception is, the average person may perceive somebody with mental illness as having a character flaw, or something they can just snap out of,” she said.

“It’s obviously not that easy … (but) recovery is possible; there are treatments available for mental health disorders. I guess the message to the community is if they know somebody who is struggling with this, to encourage them to seek help and assistance.”

Help can be sought from primary care physicians or by reaching out to KMHS at 360-373-3425. If interested in learning more about mental health issues, Bernhard recommended taking a mental health first-aid class, which “is a broad overview of the nature of different types of mental health illnesses, some of the causes, how to respond and how to guide people in those situations.”

More information about mental health care and first-aid classes can be found online at kitsapmentalhealth.org. Tickets for the “Evening with Kevin Hines” event also can be purchased on that website. The event will be at 5:30 p.m. on May 12, at the Kitsap Golf and Country Club. They are $50 per person or $400 for a table of eight attendees.

— Michelle Beahm is the online editor of the Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at mbeahm@soundpublishing.com.

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