Photo courtesy Kevin Hines

Kevin Hines, a suicide survivor and suicide prevention activist, will make a presentation at Peninsula High School Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Gig Harbor Key Peninsula Suicide Prevention Coalition.  He will speak to students at Gig Harbor and Peninsula High Schools earlier in the day, before the evening event.

Hines survived a jump off the Golden Gate Bridge when he was 19. He is a world-renowned mental health advocate, motivational speaker and author and was the subject of a full-length documentary film, “Suicide: The Ripple Effect,” that focuses on the impact of suicide and the positive effects of inspiration and hope that come from prevention and advocacy work. 

A grant from the Pierce County Council is covering the costs.

Bob Anderson, who facilitates the coalition, said the group was formed nearly seven years ago in response to a series of youth suicides. Students asked the Peninsula School District to take action, he said, and the district, feeling that suicide risk should be addressed at a community level rather than simply in the schools, hired Sue Eastgard, a nationally recognized leader in suicide prevention, to establish and facilitate the coalition for its first two years.

The group includes educators, parents, mental health professionals, social service providers, first responders and youth. Although the initial focus was on youth, Anderson said they have realized that it is a bigger issue. “The highest suicide rate is in people who look like me,” he said. “Older men.”

The coalition meets twice a month at the Gig Harbor Boys and Girls Club, at 9 a.m. on the second Thursday and at 2:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month (a time that allows students to participate). There are about 100 names on the mailing list, with 12 to 15 attending regularly.

The group has worked with the Washington State Department of Transportation to approve signs on the Narrows Bridge with phone numbers to call or text for anyone contemplating suicide.

“There were 190 calls in 2016 about possible suicide attempts on the bridge, and at least eight deaths occurred between 2013 and 2017,” Anderson said. “And there is good evidence that having signs makes a difference.” Pierce County will produce and install the signs. The coalition then plans to work on getting fences installed.

“The coalition is a group of doers,” said member Anne Nesbit. “You can feel the momentum of barriers coming down. More and more on the KP, people are asking me to talk about mental health.” Nesbit is a Prevention Specialist and Volunteer Battalion Chief with the Key Peninsula Fire District.

The coalition can provide speakers to present its 30 to 45 minute “Talk Saves Lives” for local groups. The coalition also offers a three-hour training session to prepare individuals to identify those at risk for suicide and to assist them in getting help.

Suicide survivor support groups meet at the Boys and Girls Club, Gig Harbor High and Henderson Bay. Nesbit will be talking to Key Peninsula Middle School students about mental health issues as part of the department’s public education program.

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