Man Survives Suicide Jump From Golden Gate Bridge

When Kevin Hines saw the first suicide jumper tumble over the side of the Golden Gate Bridge on the television screen, he physically shook.

"Is that what I looked like?" he said that he thought. "Is that what happened to me?"

Hines, who suffers from bipolar disorder, survived a jump from San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge in 2000. Watching "The Bridge" -- a new documentary that captures 23 suicide jumps from the bridge in 2004 -- was difficult for him. Hines calls the controversial documentary a positive influence, and believes in the filmmakers' goal to expose the high number of suicides that take place at one locale and officials' failure to erect suicide barriers.

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"It shows the truth about the fact that these are beautiful people with terrible issues that a lot of people want to just shove under the rug," the 25-year-old said. "And no longer after this movie can you shove this under the rug."

Deciding to Jump

Six years ago, when Hines was in high school, he started hearing voices. His torment became so intense that he finally decided to kill himself. One day, as usual, he attended his first class, then took a bus to the bridge, crying all the way.

"I had heard that the Golden Gate Bridge was the easiest way to die. I heard that you hit the water and you're dead," Hines said. "And I remember picking the spot. This is the good spot. I'm not too close to the pillar. I won't hit the pillar. I'm not too close to the land. I won't hit the land. I'll hit the water and I'll die."

Hines stood on the bridge for 40 minutes. No one approached him to ask what was wrong. When a tourist came up and asked whether he could take her photo, Hines said that was the final straw -- clear proof that no one cared.

He took the picture, then jumped. Instantly, he realized he had made a mistake, and came up with a plan to save his life.

"It was simply this: God, save me, A. B, throw your head back. C, hit feet first," Hines said. "And I did all of that."

The impact was crushing, and Hines hurtled 40 feet underwater. Miraculously, he survived.

Hines said his decision to kill himself at the Golden Gate came down to simplicity.

"It's this simple," Hines said. "A 4-foot rail. A tall 12-year-old could fall off."

Filming 'The Bridge'

Filmmaker Eric Steel was shocked when he first read that an average of 20 people kill themselves by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge every year. He was also amazed by the lack of effort to prevent these suicides.

"Most bridges where, or high places, if it's high enough that it would be a fatal fall, have put up suicide barriers precisely for this reason," Steel said.

He was equally amazed by bridge officials' response to the suicides. At other tall, iconic structures that had become "suicide magnets," barriers had been constructed to prevent access to areas where people could jump.

These barriers drastically reduced -- and often eliminated -- suicides at landmarks including the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, Italy's Duomo, St. Peter's Basilica, and Australia's Sydney Harbor Bridge, among others.

"One of the things that we noticed when we were at the bridge, when someone jumped and there's a splash in the water, within minutes, it's like nothing happened," Steel said. "The bridge has this amazing power to erase any trace of what's happened there. Just the way the water moves and the traffic moves and people keep walking."

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