When Kevin Hines was 17, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
At 19-years-old, he took a municipal bus to the Golden Gate Bridge and paced back and forth on the bridge’s walkway for half an hour before stepping out over the railing. Then, he listened to the voices in his head and attempted suicide by jumping two hundred and twenty feet down into San Francisco Bay.
On that fateful day in September 2000, Hines somehow survived the leap.
According to witnesses standing on the bridge when he jumped, after Hines hit the water a sea lion allegedly kept him afloat until the Coast Guard came to his rescue.
When he was featured on a show about suicide prevention, he talked about how he believed a shark was swimming right beneath him. However, a viewer contacted the show and said, “Kevin, I’m so very glad you’re alive. I was less than two feet away from you when you jumped. It haunted me until this day; it was no shark, it was a seal lion and people above looking down believed it to be keeping you afloat until the Coast Guard brought a ride behind you.”
He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:
[I was] in the water desperately trying to stay alive and stay afloat, [and] I guess you would call it a mammal began swimming beneath me and I’m thinking, Oh man, a shark is about to devour me.
But the sea lion isn’t the only one to be credited for his survival. A woman driving on the bridge actually saw him jump and immediately called the Coast Guard and gave them his exact location.
Hines became the 26th person to ever survive the four-second fall. In his memoir, Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt, he discusses what went through his mind the moment he realized he shouldn’t have tried to kill himself.
Today, Hines is a mental health advocate who speaks to people around the world in an effort to help prevent suicides.
“This is absolutely my life’s passion and my life’s work,” he said.
On average, since the bridge’s completion in 1937, about two people jump from the bridge every 10 days or so. As of 2012, there have been about 1,558 confirmed deaths.
Those who manage to survive the impact almost always die soon afterward.