Mental Health Advocate to Share Suicide Survival Story in Whitefish

With a consistently high rate of suicide for all age groups, Montana is working to fund more treatment

By Tristan Scott

In the opening to his viral YouTube video advocating mental health and suicide prevention awareness, Kevin Hines describes the moment his hands left the railing of the Golden Gate Bridge as he vaulted into the San Francisco Bay.

“The millisecond my hands left the rail there was an instant regret,” Hines tells the camera, describing his miraculous survival in 2000, at the age of 19.

His second chance at life served as an epiphany for Hines, who has learned to control his depression and bipolar disorder through treatment. He now shares his story with worldwide audiences to raise awareness about suicide prevention and encourage people to seek out treatment.

On May 1, to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month, Hines will join the nonprofit Nate Chute Foundation at an event in Whitefish, where he’ll share his inspiring story and describe his journey forward.

The event, “Cracked, Not Broken,” takes place Tuesday, May 1, at the O’Shaughnessy Center. Register for the event here.

Since 1937, more than 2,000 people have died by suicide at the Golden Gate Bridge, while only 34 survived the fall.

“I feel lucky to be alive every single day,” Hines said. “I am one of less than one percent who have survived.”

Hines’ story should resonate with Montanans, whose suicide rate has hovered in the top five nationally for decades, spiking in recent years.

In the past five years, the state’s suicide rate has crept from 20.1 per 100,000 people to 22.5. Nationally five years ago, the rate was 10 people per 100,000. Today, it’s closer to 12 people per 100,000.

The event is sponsored by the Nate Chute Foundation, an organization named after the well-known Whitefish local, who took his own life after graduating from high school in 1999. His sudden, tragic death rocked the community and served as a gut-wrenching reminder of an epidemic plaguing Montana

After their son’s death, father Terry Chute and mother Jane Kollmeyer devoted themselves to trying to prevent other families from experiencing the same anguish. The family established the Nate Chute Foundation, a nonprofit with the goal of raising funds for suicide awareness and prevention services aimed at high school and middle school students.

Statewide efforts to raise awareness for suicide prevention and establish more resources to treat depression are also ramping up.

On April 23, Gov. Steve Bullock announced a $378,000 suicide prevention grant awarded to Montana State University to launch a new suicide prevention technology tool and to implement an evidence-based school prevention program.

The Montana State University Center for Mental Health Research and Recovery was awarded $221,000 to evaluate online cognitive behavior therapy statewide and a $157,000 grant to implement the Youth Aware of Mental Health program within the Great Falls School District.

Bullock included in his 2017 budget and the Legislature passed House Bill 118, sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, to provide $1 million for suicide prevention in Montana. A total of $750,000 was allocated for schools and community organizations to implement evidence-based suicide prevention programs. A total of $250,000 is dedicated to the continued implementation of the Montana Native Youth Suicide Reduction Strategic Plan.

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