OTTAWA — Putnam County students met at Fort Jennings and Ottawa-Glandorf High Schools Thursday to hear a message of hope and supporting one another by a man who shared his story of his near death experience of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.
Continental, Kalida and Ottoville High School students went to Fort Jennings High School for the program. Pandora, Miller City, Columbus Grove and Leipsic High School students were at OG High School.
Two years after being diagnosed with a bipolar disorder at age 17, Kevin Hines attempted to take his own life by jumping off the bridge on Sept. 24, 2000. He is one of only 34 (less than 1 percent) to survive the fall. In 2012 he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding work as a suicide prevention advocate and speaker by the National Council of Behavioral Health.
“I decided I would end my life. I didn’t want to die, but felt I was my family’s greatest burden and believed I was useless,” Hines said.
He told the students suicide is never the solution, it’s the problem and asked them to vow not to bully each other online or in person.
He incorporated the students into his speech by asking how many felt useless one time or another. Hines then asked them to come stand behind him showing a visible message of how many have experience those feelings of not being good enough.
Hines encouraged the students to find beauty and led them in a chant in unison of “I will be here tomorrow.”
“It’s a beautiful day today because we all get to be here and being here is a privilege and a gift, no matter the pain you are in,” Hines said.
He shared his life story that began with being born to his biological parents who were drug addicts. He and his brother were taken from the parents because of their drug addiction and placed in various foster homes. In one of the foster homes, his brother died of bronchitis.
“That day I was ripped from my parents arms was the day my life was first saved,” Hines said. The first nine months of his life he was fed Kool-Aid, Coca Cola and sour milk because that was all his parents could steal and had no income.
He said his adoptive parents gave him a second chance at life and his grandfather taught him to do the right thing all day, every day, no matter what someone else said to him.
He asked the students to say after him “I will never die by my hands. I will fight the pain in spite of the pain to thrive someday. I will live this life until my natural life ends and never die by my hands.”
Nick Langhals, Fort Jennings principal and high school superintendent, said the school system wanted a meaningful mental health-suicide prevention assembly speaker.
“We wanted something to reach the kids and get a conversation started. Mental health is a real thing and we wanted to do something meaningful for all our students in the county,” Langhals said.
Reach Jennifer Peryam at 567-242-0362.