DECATUR — The only sound in the Garfield Montessori School auditorium was the voice of Kevin Hines on a video screen.
Hines attempted suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge and survived, though he had significant injuries. A passerby saw him in the water and called the Coast Guard and when they pulled him from the water, they told him they had pulled out 57 dead bodies and one live one – Hines.
“Learn from me,” Hines said in the video. “Your thoughts don't have to become your actions. Don't silence your pain.”
Monday was World Suicide Prevention Day and this week is Suicide Prevention Week. Heritage Behavioral Health Center, DC Bodyworks and Decatur schools have teamed up for assemblies at eight schools.
The effort began with DC Bodyworks' owner Ecila Deransburg-Cook when she heard the song, “1-800-273-8255,” which is also the suicide prevention hotline number. She was with her daughter when the song, by the rapper Logic, came on the radio, and at first, she wanted to turn it off for fear the lyrics were inappropriate; there is one use of profanity early on.
But then her daughter asked her to actually listen to the lyrics, which begin with a young man contemplating suicide: “I don't wanna be alive; I just wanna die today.”
“I went home and watched the video and it broke my heart,” Deransburg-Cook said. “I said, we need to do something to raise awareness about this, so if someone is feeling that way, they know they can get help. It started out to do a suicide awareness selfie campaign to get these T-shirts in all the schools and have the kids snap pictures and post on social media, but that was too much for me by myself.”
Once she enlisted the assistance of Heritage and Jessica Smiley, who works there in social services, the idea became posting banners at schools with the message “I Want You to be Alive,” and encouraging the students to sign the banners in tribute to a person in their lives that they can turn to in difficulty.
Smiley asked the students to recite the suicide prevention hotline number several times to make sure they had it memorized. If they don't want to talk, they can text 741741, she said. Heritage sees people every day who are contemplating suicide, she said, and loved ones should always take talk of suicide seriously.
“At the end of the day, everyone's life matters,” she said.
The assembly also included another video, with people telling their stories of depression and attempts at suicide and speaking of how they got through it and who helped them. The stories were as varied as the people, but always boiled down to the feeling that their life had no worth and they couldn't live with the pain.
“It was so sad, that people would feel that way, like nobody likes them and they don't want to live,” said seventh-grader Jeffrey Jump.
Hines' video included his account of walking back and forth on the Golden Gate, “crying like a baby,” and passing any number of other people, yet not one stopped and asked what was wrong. That amazed Hannah Sullivan, an eighth-grader.
“I think I would say something, even if it wasn't any of my business,” she said.
Though Grace Smith-Phillips, an eighth-grader, said she doesn't know of anyone going through a rough patch like that, she feels more equipped to be supportive if she ever does.
“I know I haven't struggled the way some kids have struggled with suicide or suicide attempts or suicide thoughts,” she said. “I feel like, if I had, this would have really helped me and made me feel safer. I know that if that ever happens to me, I will have people to be around me to help me get through it and I will be able to get through it.”
Sometimes Symone Abraham doesn't think the topic of an assembly is one she can actually use, she said, but this time, she was glad she learned something she might need someday.
“I haven't gone through it, but I felt like if there was someone here that was going through it, this would definitely change their mind,” said Symone, who is in eighth grade. “It put a perspective on everything.”