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It’s the same old story, maybe in a new light

I wanted to write about something different for this column. I wanted to address an issue that is prevalent and in the news today and a real problem for people. I wanted to offer my take on it, for whatever that’s worth.

But I didn’t find anything “new” or different. I found the same issues that are always there.

And it breaks my heart.

At age 27, Hayden Kennedy has reached heights that many only dream of — literally. An accomplished mountain climber, Kennedy is best known for climbing the Southeast Ridge in Patagonia’s Cerro Torree in 2012 and removing many of the bolts placed there by controversial Italian climber Cesare Maestri over 40 years earlier.

His father, Michael, also an accomplished mountaineer and the former long-time editor of Climbing Magazine, publicly praised his son for helping restore the mountain “to its rightful place as one of the most demanding and inaccessible summits in the world.”

Saturday, Kennedy and his girlfriend Inge Perkins, 23, were skiing on Imp Peak in the southern Madison Range in Montana when they accidentallly triggered an avalanche in a steep, narrow gulley.

Kennedy was partially covered and Perkins was completely buried beneath the snow. Kennedy pulled himself free but could not locate his girlfriend. After searching, he hiked out to get help.

Certain that Perkins would be found dead —her body was recovered Monday ­— Kennedy decided to take his own life on Sunday. His body was found in a home as search teams prepared to recover his girlfriend’s body.

In a statement written by his parents, they wrote, “Hayden survived the avalanche but not the unbearable loss of his partner in life.”

In September 2000, Kevin Hines believed no one cared whether he lived or died. He was sure he was nothing more than a burden to his parents and society, and was weighed down by bipolar disorder and hallucinations.

He jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge and plummeted 75 miles per hour for 25 stories. Miraculously, he lived.

He is one of only 36 people — 1 percent — to have survived the jump since the bridge was built in 1937. He was the 26th person to live after the leap. He is the only survivor who shares his story as an encouragement to others not to give up hope and not to choose suicide.

He is one of the very few to be able to walk and talk and have good physical health after the attempt.

Hines has written a book, filmed a documentary, maintains a blog and travels the country talking with others about the reality of mental health issues and the need for support from others. As part of his own process of recovery, he made a 10–step plan that includes such admonitions as eating healthy, avoiding drugs and alcohol, exercising and getting enough sleep. The last step of his plan is called “The Plan.”

Hines made a list of all his doctors’ names, numbers, etc.; his symptoms and episode triggers; and release forms signed by people who have authority to speak on his behalf. The reason he did this is because he needs help, he said.

“Why? The answer is simple, no one with a mental illness, a brain disease, or behavioral health battle can do this alone, and everyone needs help sometime,” wrote Hines.

Kennedy’s father wrote to his son just two weeks ago in response to Kennedy expressing his grief over losing so many friends over the years in climbing accidents.

“An awareness of mortality prompts us to focus on what’s important: developing a strong community of family and friends,” he wrote.

A support system. Everyone needs it. Not just those you think might. I do. You do, too.

Hines said his mental issues have not disappeared, but he has gotten better because he has surrounded himself with family and friends who care about him — many of them the same who were there for him when he jumped, but he could not see the love they were expressing — and a plan to survive.

I’m sorry I’m writing about the same old thing again. I’m sorry that it is a persistent issue.

But I’m not sorry to help shine a light on what is easier to hide in the darkness of denial.

Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com or 601-265-5307.