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9:47 AM Sun, Oct. 21st

Suicide attempt leads to advocacy

‘Suicide: The Ripple Effect’ showcases how survivor stories can inspire hope that saves lives

Midgley Bridge, in Sedona, Arizona, contains barriers to prevent jumpers. (Courier, file photo)

Midgley Bridge, in Sedona, Arizona, contains barriers to prevent jumpers. (Courier, file photo)

In 2000, a San Francisco college student struggling with inner voices and untreated depression left his campus and headed to the Golden Gate Bridge, a historic landmark attractive to suicidal jumpers.

Then 19, Kevin Hines paced back and forth for almost 40 minutes with no one asking him why he was distraught; maybe they didn’t even notice he was pondering a dive over the four-foot railing.

Finally, one woman stopped — she asked him to take her photograph. He did. Then he jumped head first over the four-foot-high rail, hurtling toward the San Francisco Bay 245 feet below.

The Yavapai Suicide Prevention Coalition plans a second showing of “Suicide: The Ripple Effect” at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5.

For more information, contact coalition founder John Schuderer at 928-830-3047.

In a suicide awareness film titled, “Suicide: The Ripple Effect,” Hines describes how in the moment after he plunged headfirst toward the water he realized he did not want to die. He reangled his body so he hit the water legs first. Someone above saw him take the leap, and called for help. Hines survived — one of only 36 of some 2,000 jumpers to do so in the bridge’s 81-year history.

The Yavapai Suicide Prevention Coalition arranged for the showing of the film at the Harkins Theater on National Suicide Prevention Day, Sept. 10. September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

The evening showing was well-attended with many representatives of the non-profit and civic justice arena as well as those who have attempted to escape their lives or have buried loved ones who could not be saved — coalition founder John Schuderer lost his own young adult son to suicide. Schuderer and some of the coalition members were wearing black shirts that read: “Be Here Tomorrow.”

At the close of the 90-minute film, Schuderer headed up a three-person panel to talk about the importance of earnest conversation that enables people to rethink a choice most often make out of desperation and fear that there is no other balm for their invisible pain. The film’s premise is that the “ripple effect” of suicide can move from grief to hope for those who like Hines do not really wish to die.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 and the Crisis Textline: Text 741741. Teen Lifeline: 1-800-248-TEEN (8336). Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860.

Survivors of Suicide support group in Prescott is held on the last Monday of the month at 6 p.m. at the First Congregational Church,

216 E. Gurley Street.

After surviving a broken spine and other injuries from his near-fatal fall, Hines has made suicide prevention his life’s work. He is clear his mental illness did not disappear; he just now has found ways to cope with his emotional turmoil so he can embrace life no matter the obstacles. He knows there are people in his life who need him to “Be Here Tomorrow.”

U.S. VETS Prescott Executive Director Carole Benedict said she found the movie a testament to the need to be proactive in spreading a message of hope and help for those who wrestle with their mental health. Hines was clear he felt such shame, and that he was a burden to others. Benedict said she wants to be certain in this community no one feels as if they have nowhere to turn.

One of the after-movie panelists, Laurie, a local veteran, said she never saw her suicide attempts as attention-getters. She just wanted to end the hurt embedded in her soul.

Like Hines, Laurie said to know someone cares enough to reach out can make all the difference. She commended the local VA staff for their efforts. She, too, agreed that “sugarcoating” the issue is not the answer. If someone is in crisis, people must not be afraid to ask them if they are plotting to end their life.

photo

Movie poster for Suicide: The Ripple Effect. (SuicideTheRippleEffect.com/Courtesy)

Had one person asked Hines that fateful day if he needed help, or in any way offered comfort, he suspects he would not have jumped, he said.

The tools to commit suicide also need to be assessed, Hines and others said.

The Golden Gate Bridge’s proximity and easy accessibility enabled Hines to act on his impulse, he said. Thanks to the persistence of families who lost loved ones to suicide, an effort started in 2014 has evolved into construction this year to erect stainless steel nets that will extend the length of the 1.7-mile bridge a few feet below the railings. The $211 million project is expected to be complete in 2021.

In Yavapai County, with suicide statistics higher per capita than in any other of Arizona’s 15 counties, 32.8 per 100,000 population, suicide-prevention barriers were installed in 2016 at the Midgley Bridge in Sedona as a deterrent. The local VA distributes gun locks as yet another prevention tool.

Between Jan. 1, 2017, and May 1, 2018, the state Medical Examiner’s Office reported 99 suicide deaths.

Schuderer, a retired therapist, is a believer that a spotlight on suicide prevention will reap results.

“Just a smile, or opening the door for someone. A hug,” Schuderer said. “You can make a difference. It’s very simple.”