"What have I just done?"
Regret hammered Kevin Hines instantly. Four seconds later, so would the impact of the water 25 storeys below.
On Sept. 24, 2000, the then 19-year-old leapt off the Golden Gate Bridge, prompted by an onset of violent auditory hallucinations tied to his bipolar disorder.
"They were screaming in my head, 'You must die. You must die, now! Jump now!'"
Nearly 16 years later, Hines still wakes in cold sweats in the dead of night, reliving the free fall and praying the same silent prayer.
"I don't want to die. God, please save me."
The collision with the water's surface shattered Hines's T12, L1 and L2 lower vertebrae. Medical X-rays later showed he was two millimetres away from severing his spinal cord.
"Then I remember what I didn't expect — opening my eyes, 70 feet beneath the water's surface. I'm alive, and I'm drowning."
Coast guard officers pulled him from the water, stunned to find him alive.
Strapped to a flatboard, wearing a neck brace and fully conscious and aware, Hines remembers one of the officers called him "a miracle."
That unit had recovered just one live person out of 57 bodies to that point, Hines said.
"As freaked out as they were, they asked me, 'Kid, do you know what you just did?'"
Their next question was, "Why?"
"This is the most pathetic answer I came up with. I said, 'I don't know. I thought I had to die today.'"
Today, Hines is one of just 36 people (fewer than one per cent) to survive a fall from the Golden Gate Bridge, and he's using the second chance life has given him to spread awareness about mental health and suicide prevention.
His soon to be released documentary titled Suicide: The Ripple Effect chronicles his progress toward hope and healing, and the effects his journey has had on those around him.
"The idea is to take not just a film, but to create a ground swell movement to change people's lives one presentation, one article, one film at a time," said Hines, who speaks Monday night at a free event at the University of Calgary.
Yes, Hines still battles chronic suicidal thoughts, and there are moments where he believes he's "a burden to everyone who loves [him]."
"We are sick. We are damaged in our brains, in our minds, and our bodies," he said. "That's what leads to suicide — the most epic brain pain you can experience."
But he's developed practical behaviours and reasoning patterns to help him battle through his thoughts with the help of his wife, father, and professionals.
It's that message of resilience and triumph in the face of adversity that Hines wants to communicate.
"This is not your typical, depressive suicidal film," he insists.
"Let's get to that place where it's so commonplace, the conversation is so normalized that no one's being brave who talks about their brain disease — they're just being honest."