JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Kevin Hines, suicide survivor and author of "Cracked, Not Broken," shared his story of survival and living with severe mental illness Feb. 1, at North Lewis Chapel on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Soldiers from throughout I Corps, to include the 201st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, were in attendance at Lewis North Chapel to hear Hines' story of how in Sept. 2000 he leapt off the Golden Gate Bridge, a method of suicide that has resulted in death for all but 36 (less than 2%) of the over 2,000 people who have jumped since the bridge opened in 1937.
Miraculously, Hines survived and, in the nearly two decades since, has by way of his recurrent touring in support of suicide prevention, become the bridge between many people and their loved ones who made a similar act.
"I tell you this story … because it is very, very true to life, showing an epic journey from hell to hope. I say to you this, if you happen to be in a world of hurt right now, it doesn't mean that you don't get to have your beautiful tomorrow, but you have to be here to get there in the first place."
Hines said it was important to note that he still struggles with depression, and that there are days when he considers taking his own life. What's different now, though, is the way Hines reaches out for support, and how he works through it. He regularly takes medication for his bipolar disorder, eats right and adheres to a strict daily routine.
When asked about Hines' story, Ch. (Lt. Col.) Henry Soussan, Brigade Chaplain for the 201st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., said, "When I heard that (Hines message of reaching out to others), I thought 'that's really what the resiliency team is about.'"
The brigade resiliency team, Soussan explained, was assembled to help provide Soldiers whatever support it is they might need. It allows Soldiers from the 201st EMIB to find Unit Ministry, Behavioral Health, Military and Family Life Consultant, Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP), and Equal Opportunity personnel and advocates in one location, all working together in order to support them, their families, and each other in the most professional manner possible.
"All the agencies that are here, they're part of the 201st, and they're here to help our Soldiers with their day to day concerns," Soussan said. "Everyone here has their share in trying to make the Soldier feel supported, and that's what we hoped to achieve here today is show them they have support. There's always a solution. They never need to despair. We are here. That's why we exist -- to support the Soldier, to win the fight. We will do everything to help make that Soldier more resilient."
That support includes confidential one on one suicide counseling that will never be revealed outside his office unless the Soldier requests as much.
"Part of the attraction of the chaplaincy for Soldiers is that they know that everything they tell us is confidential -- 100%," Soussan said. "So, people can come to us and talk it through before they take any action."
Soussan also noted that, "in my years as a chaplain, of all the counseling I've done, maybe 10% had to do with religion; 90% had to do with other issues -- personal issues, financial issues, depression, family issues. So, it's not always about religion. It's about being able to talk to someone who relates to you as another human being that needs some advice or help."
Hines agreed that support, like that which the Resiliency Team offers, is necessary.
"I firmly believe, if we are nothing else on this planet, we are one thing together -- and you all know this in the military more than most -- we are our brother's and sister's keepers," Hines said. "We are not here for ourselves. We are here to give back to those who are in pain. We are here to pick up those who fall down. We're here to give hope to those who have none. That's why we're here. That is our purpose. You know that; you serve that cause every day."
As someone living with severe mental illness, Hines hopes sharing his story of resiliency will help others to live mentally well and choose life, and motivate those who know someone who's suffering to act should the need arise.
"That's always what (the Resiliency Team is) looking for," Soussan said. "When we talk to Soldiers and we say 'how are you doing,' it's not just a courtesy. We are actually looking for ways to help."
Hines' finished his visit by reminding those present to remember that "the thought of suicide is separate from the action of suicide," and to "always and forever cherish this day and every waking moment of this gorgeous gift we get to call life."
His story is documented in his 2013 memoir "Cracked Not Broken, Surviving and Thriving After A Suicide Attempt," and is also featured in the 2006 film "The Bridge" by the film director and producer Eric Steel.
The 201st Soldier and Family Resilience Center can be found on the first floor in Building 3373 -- the Headquarters and Headquarters Company Operations Facility -- on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Personnel are available workdays from 0900 to 1700.