Belfast Telegraph

Suicide prevention campaigner who survived jump from the Golden Gate Bridge urges us to talk about our feelings

By Victoria O'Hara

A suicide prevention campaigner who survived a jump from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco has spoken of the need to replace apathy with "true empathy" to help people battling mental health problems in Northern Ireland.

Kevin Hines, a guest speaker at a major two-day conference in Belfast, attempted to take his own life two years after he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Mr Hines, from San Francisco, then 19 and one of 34 people to survive the fall, said it was vital people at risk of suicide were able to talk about their feelings.

The 4th Contact International Suicide Prevention: What Works? Conference organised by counselling charity Contact focused on the voice of mental health recovery and the role of suicide attempt survivors. Experts from across the province, England and America attended.

Speaking last night, Mr Hines said he still makes staying alive his main goal every day.

"I live with suicidal thoughts, bipolar disorder and depression, but I am able to cope with them because I know how.

"People from all walks of life tell me about their sufferings that they have never shared, but after I've told mine. Hearing stories help people heal. We need to stop apathy and show true empathy. Organisations like Contact are saying: 'We may not understand what you are going through but we can put ourselves in your shoes and will walk with you to health'".

It is estimated there have been 7,000-plus suicides in Northern Ireland since 1970 and it is estimated that each death affects another six people. Therefore, more than 40,000 people in Northern Ireland have been bereaved by suicide in the last 45 years.

Fergus Cumiskey, managing director, Contact, said: "Suicide is the most preventable public health crisis of our times, and requires full co-operation between all services at crisis point."

Health Minister Jim Wells, who attended the conference, said there was "no one-size-fits-all cure to suicide".

The 24-hour support line Lifeline is on 0808 808 8000.

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