Sometimes, telling a story can save a person’s life. That’s what motivates internationally known speaker and mental health advocate Kevin Hines to tour the nation, telling audiences of the bleak day in September of 2000 when he catapulted himself over the side of the Golden Gate Bridge in an attempted suicide.

He describes the “instant regret” he immediately felt, and how in the seconds as he was free-falling, all he wanted to do was live. Hines brings a message of healing and hope to his audiences, and soon will be sharing his story with northwest Kansas.

Hines will speak at 7 p.m. Aug. 1 at Hays Middle School, 201 W. 29th, in Hays. The event is free and open to the public; no need to obtain tickets or RSVP. A book signing of Hines’ personal memoir, “Cracked, Not Broken,” will follow the presentation. Books will be available to purchase on-site.

The event is sponsored by High Plains Mental Health Center and Heartland Community Foundation, with support from Hays USD 489, Fort Hays State University’s Kelly Center, NAMI Hays, The Center for Life Experiences and Breathe Coffee House.

“Suicide prevention is a critically important topic, and these are the kinds of conversations our communities need to begin having. Kevin will address this difficult subject in a way that sheds light on the struggles of mental illness but also brings hope to those who need it,” said Walt Hill, executive director of High Plains Mental Health Center.

“We are thrilled to bring Kevin to northwest Kansas. We believe his story will benefit people in all walks of life and encourage you all to join us for this exciting opportunity.”

The presentation is timely and relevant, given Kansas’ suicide rate is up 45 percent since 1999 — one of the highest increases nationwide. Rural Kansas has been particularly affected, with the least populated counties having the highest rates of suicide deaths in 2016. Data indicates agricultural workers are particularly at risk for mental illness, perhaps partly due to high stress and economic difficulties.

One of only 34 people to survive a jump off the iconic bridge, Hines is the only one who regained full physical mobility. Hines, diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a teenager, will share his remarkable story of survival and recovery. Today, Kevin dedicates his life to saving others by spreading his message of hope and sharing his journey toward mental wellness. Thousands of people have told him his story helped save their lives. Hines is one of the most respected and admired voices of lived experience. His story is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and a reminder for us to love the life we have. His personal mantra is, “Life is a gift, that is why they call it the present. Cherish it always.”

Hines also is a filmmaker and is featured in a full-length documentary produced this year, “Suicide: The Ripple Effect.” He was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Council of Behavioral Health. Kevin also has been awarded by SAMSHA as a Voice Awards Fellow and Award Winner, an Achievement Winner by the U.S. Veterans Affairs and is a recipient of several military medals.

The event is intended to help break the stigma surrounding mental illness and to provide hope for those who might currently be struggling. Hines’ presentation also can offer hope and help for family members and friends to help identify and support loved ones experiencing mental illness. High Plains Mental Health Center is a licensed community mental health center dedicated to the aggressive pursuit of providing a comprehensive mental health program to residents of northwest Kansas. Embodied in this pursuit are fundamental principles of establishing quality services as close to home as possible, at an affordable fee and delivered in the least disruptive manner available.

High Plains offers 24/7 emergency services to all residents within 20 northwest Kansas counties. Call toll free anytime at (800) 432-0333 for crisis support or to schedule an appointment with a qualified mental health professional. The main office is located at 208 E. Seventh in Hays, with branch offices in Colby, Goodland, Norton, Osborne and Phillipsburg. Community outreach services are available in Atwood, Hoxie, Oberlin, Quinter, Russell, Smith Center, WaKeeney, Hill City, Plainville, La Crosse, St. Francis, Sharon Springs and Oakley.