Kevin Hines jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge in 2000, but a split second after making the irreversible decision, changed his mind about wanting to commit suicide.
"The millisecond that my hands left the rail ... I had what I call an instant regret," Hines explained on The Glenn Beck Program Tuesday. "I prayed for my survival, hit the water, which is like hitting a brick wall at that speed. I shattered three vertebrae, rendering me, my legs motionless. I went down 70 to 80 feet, but I opened my eyes."
Hines said he frantically swam to the surface and was terrified when he felt something brush against his legs.
"I honestly thought it was a shark and that it was going to devour me," Hines said with a small laugh. "I was on a show some years later for suicide prevention and a man wrote into the show and said, 'Kevin, I was standing less than two feet away from you when you jumped. It has haunted me until this day. No one could tell me if you lived or died. I'm so very glad you're alive. By the way, there was no shark. It was a sea lion, and we believe it [was] keeping you afloat until the Coast Guard boat arrived...'"
Hines said "many people" on the bridge saw a sea lion "circling beneath me, bumping me up."
Hines, who developed a severe form of bipolar disorder at age 17, was in the hospital for a month, and in a psychiatric hospital for much longer after that.
"I got better for about a year, but I have battled this severe mental illness since 1998," he remarked. "I have just learned the tools to cope ... and keep on living."
Hines said his illness lends itself to "extreme psychosis, paranoid delusions, hallucinations both auditory and visual, terrible manic highs and awful depressive lows."
"What I do now, as a self-aware person living with a mental illness, is, when I am suffering so deeply, I am so self-aware that I will say to my wife, 'I have to go to the hospital right now,'" Hines explained. "And I really mean right now, or it will result in my imminent death."
In the wake of actor Robin Williams' tragic death on Monday, Hines said Williams was "a beautiful man with a great heart and this immense compassion for others."
"It's a terrible loss," he concluded. "But let's go forward today and talk about prevention, because it works. Reduction of access to lethal means works, and we can learn from this."
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