8 Tiny Things That Stopped Suicides
There are stories every day about some rescuer heroically stopping a suicide attempt -- breaking down a door, scooping someone off a ledge or cutting a noose down with a ninja star. But sometimes there's no strapping fireman or hero cop or friendly ninja, just one little silly thing between life and death.
Something like ...
The 16-year-old Chinese boy in this story was having a pretty shitty time. His mother was dead and he was convinced his stepmother hated him, probably because she stole all his dad's money and left the two of them homeless and scrambling to stay alive.
So he decided to jump off a bridge. The police came, and hundreds of onlookers gathered to watch the show and not try to help at all. Then Liu Wenxiu, a 19-year-old waitress passing by, saw what was going on.
She was a quick thinker and got past the cops by making up a story on the spot about how she was his girlfriend and this suicide was over her. She didn't try to talk the boy out of it, but just listened to his story and then showed him her scarred right wrist, which got his attention. Then she told him her story about her equally shitty home life, and her own suicide attempts. "He had to be saved," she said later, "because I've been there before and I knew exactly how it was."
"Look at me," she told him. "I've been there and I'm now here." Then, knowing every 16-year-old boy's kryptonite, she gave him a hug and kissed him.
In this state, he was more than willing to let the cops take away the knife he was wielding and haul him to safety.
Later, they exchanged phone numbers and she promised to call him and check on how he was doing. Though they probably didn't hook up due to their age difference, he may have realized that killing himself would have taken away his future, which very possibly might contain sex. Oh yeah, and probably he also realized how he wasn't alone and other people knew what it was like. But also sex.
Now if your take-away from this story is that you can threaten suicide in the hopes of getting a girl to kiss you, that's clearly one possibility. But for every Liu Wenxiu, there's one of these impatient assholes that will actually help push you off the bridge.
Don't worry, he survived.
Are you a gambling man?
A Sarah McLachlan Song
So D.M.C., or Darryl McDaniels, of Run-D.M.C., was at the top of his game in 1997, on tour in Europe, when he fell into an "Is this all there is?" funk. You people who have sold multi-platinum albums or purchased Greek islands know what I'm talking about. It wasn't just a mild feeling of something missing either -- he'd actually decided to commit suicide when he got home.
You young kids do not even START asking who Run-D.M.C. was. Look it up.
As he was being driven home from the airport, Sarah McLachlan's song "Angel" started playing on the radio. Yes, the song that manipulates you into helping abused kittens and puppies. Anyway, they didn't have that commercial in 1997, so D.M.C. wasn't thinking about how he should adopt a dog, but how life was worth living after all.
Although the two concepts aren't completely unrelated, as you'll see in entry #1.
He put away his suicide plans and just started listening to a whole lot of Sarah McLachlan. A while later, he found out he himself was adopted, and finally life made sense for him. His adoption had put him in the right place at the right time to meet Run and Jam Master Jay and form Run-D.M.C. and resurrect Aerosmith by recording "Walk This Way" with them and all that business. And the point of this remarkable destiny, D.M.C. decided (other than helping Aerosmith), was for him to use his street cred to promote adoption and help foster kids.
As part of that mission, he asked Sarah McLachlan to record a "Cat's In The Cradle" cover with him, telling her the whole story of how her music changed his life. Turned out she was also adopted. Hell, maybe that's why she wants people to adopt cats and dogs.
So instead of killing himself, now D.M.C. is helping foster kids and listening to a lot of Sarah McLachlan music.
Anyway, something to think about next time you make fun of a friend for listening to music "for pussies."
A Firing Pin
Now I don't know a lot about guns, and gun parts, but I gather that the "firing pin" is a part of the gun that makes the gun fire. This is important, because when Joe Sanders, a soldier worn down from the stress of fighting in Iraq and the recent news that his wife was leaving him, put his M-4 carbine to his chin and pulled the trigger, the firing pin was missing.
I couldn't pick it out. Also I'm pretty sure this is the wrong gun.
His roommate, Albert Godding, walked in and found Sanders panicking, asking where his firing pin was. Godding asked him exactly how he happened to discover it was missing, at which point Sanders put two and two together and broke down. Godding had heard his roommate talk about killing himself earlier that day and quietly removed the pin.
I'm not sure what Godding's plan was for if Sanders didn't try to kill himself before he went back on patrol or whatever, but the point is that instead of dying, Sanders went to see the army counselor, got a lot better and is engaged again.
Apparently it's a big problem for a lot of soldiers to ask for help, since as manly men, they should just be able to rip a truck in half whenever they're down, and feel better. That's probably why Godding felt like he had to do the pin trick, since just asking his friend to open up about his feelings probably wouldn't have worked.
"What's wrong, buddy? I just want us to share about feelings. That's your favorite thing, right?"
But not everybody knows where a firing pin on a gun is, so I think it's a good idea for manly men to try to ask for help. At the very least, it will save your family from breaking your gun when they are trying to find the firing pin.
A Massive Pile of Garbage
Apparently, last winter there was a huge snowstorm in New York, leaving conditions so shitty that nobody could pick up garbage. Bags of garbage started to pile up on the curbs and all the Febreze in the world couldn't do a thing about it. Serves them right for living in a place where it snows, is what I say. Sensible people prefer to take the risk of half their state falling into the ocean.
Anyway, hard-luck story Vangelis Kapatos, dealing with a nervous breakdown and facing eviction, jumped from his ninth story apartment and happened to land right in one of those massive piles of garbage, saving his life. Keep in mind this was still a nine-story fall. He was taken to the hospital in critical condition -- but still, he was alive.
It's nice to know that after hearing the story, the city's papers were able to find just the tone needed for such a bleak, tragic story of human suffering.
A "Just Because" Phone Call
Hulk Hogan is probably the last person you would imagine trying to kill himself, since he is basically a cartoon character. It would be like finding out Bugs Bunny had depression.
Probably after seeing the most recent attempts to "reboot" him.
But after his son got into a terrible car accident while his marriage was falling apart, the Hulkster decided he had enough, and holed up in his home with pills, booze and a gun. He kept telling everyone who called that he was all right (like soldiers, Hogan is a manly man) until Laila Ali called.
And you PICK UP when Laila Ali calls.
Muhammad Ali's daughter was calling him because they were friends, from co-starring on American Gladiators, and she just wanted to see how he was doing because he had seemed sad on the set. She wasn't calling to grill him on "what was wrong" or ask if he "needed help," but just wanted to say hi and see how he was feeling.
Hogan was just sitting in his empty house all alone, having lost his wife, not knowing if he was going to lose his son, and facing a future with nobody in his life except Brooke Hogan. He had hit rock bottom. Then Laila Ali called just to say hi, and it suddenly hit him that other people out there care whether the Hulkster lives or dies.
There's a real strong message there, which is that if you have a friend who you know has been depressed, or is thinking suicidal thoughts, all it takes is a couple of minutes out of your day to see if you can get Laila Ali to call them.
If you can't get a hold of her, maybe ask T.I. to go over and talk to them.
Blizzard Customer Support
Most online gamers think of customer support as the annoying hand of The Man which is never there when you are being harassed by a horrible troll calling you inexcusably offensive words like "faggot" when you steal his herbs, but is always getting in your business when you totally justifiably toss someone a harmless insult like "faggot" for stealing your herbs.
And sure, customer support's main job is to fail to respond to your concerns about PvP balance or give you delayed, inaccurate updates about server outages. But you tell them a guildmate was talking to you about suicide right before abruptly signing off, and they are right on it, tracking him down and sending emergency personnel to his house.
On the flipside, of course, for every good deed, there is a dick crying sour grapes.
Not only Blizzard but Twitter communities have quickly put aside their usual Internet dicking-around to track down a suicidal user and get her some local help. Even the Cracked forums have responded numerous times to posters thinking of ending it all, with the most cynical, goatse-posting, snarky assholes offering a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on, or sharing their own experiences from rock bottom. In the most dire cases, people have dropped everything to track down the poster and call local emergency services to make sure they're safe.
The thing about the Internet is it is REALLY weird to say, "Thank you Wonkypops for sharing something so personal," or "I was inspired by DizzleDrizzle's wise words."
And sure, when it comes to the Internet, there are a lot of trolls, or just lonely people, who might pretend they're suicidal just to get attention, but if you get tricked by them, who actually loses? When trolls trick you into clicking on a spam offer or a promised porn link, maybe they prove you're greedy or a pervert, and it makes you feel stupid. But if they trick you into saying something nice to an imaginary suicidal person, what does that prove? That you have a heart and care about human life? Ha ha! That troll sure exposed you!
Even if nine out of 10 threatened Internet suicides are trolls or attention-getters, I don't care about looking stupid nine times to save one person's life.
As long as I don't have to wear a fruit hat. If I have to wear a fruit hat to save you, your life is in God's hands.
A Really Nice Guy That Lives by a Cliff
So you might have heard this story about this Australian dude that happens to live by a picturesque cliff that a lot of suicidal people want to throw themselves from.
Now, while you or I would decide sooner or later that this is a fucking depressing place to live and find a better house, Don Ritchie has lived there 50 years, and instead of trying to avoid these sad, stressful situations that would send any of us running the other way, he goes out there every time and talks to them.
He's saved 160 lives by some estimates. He hasn't been able to save everyone and has watched people jump to their deaths right in front of him, but that doesn't stop him from going out there again and again, every time.
And after talking to hundreds of suicidal people, I don't know about you, but I'd be tempted to start yelling at each new person about how the 100 people before them all said the same thing and where do they get off thinking their problems are so unique. But Ritchie manages to treat each person like they matter.
Apparently this is what a saint looks like.
And the most amazing thing is that he's not the only guy doing this. Halfway around the world in Japan, Yukio Shige hangs out at a popular suicide cliff, and not only talks people out of suicide on the spot, but later helps them with their family problems and tries to help them find jobs.
And this is what a Japanese saint looks like.
On days when you just want to watch the world burn, remember that for every dickhead in the world bullying gay teenagers there is a guy like this.
Air Force veteran David Sharpe was suffering from severe PTSD and anger issues. He was picking fights, self-medicating with booze and punching holes in walls, and anyone who tried to help him was told to fuck off. One day he hit bottom, put a gun in his mouth, closed his eyes and was ready to pull the trigger when a puppy licked his ear.
He opened his eyes and found Cheyenne, the puppy he had adopted a few months ago, staring at him with her head cocked to one side. Now I can tell you that it is very hard to go through with the action of killing yourself when a puppy is looking at you.
I'm not suggesting you test it out, but I mean, that feels about right, doesn't it?
"Who's going to take care of me?" Sharpe imagined the dog saying to him, even though she was probably saying, "I'm hungry." Or possibly, "Is it not OK to lick your ear? Is that one of those 'boundaries' we talked about?" But Imaginary Cheyenne Voice had a good point, and Sharpe put the gun away.
Later, he found out he could talk to the dog about everything that had happened to him, without lashing out or feeling defensive or worrying about being judged. He could talk about the survivor's guilt he felt without being told he shouldn't feel that way. The dog might lick her genitals occasionally, but she'd never blurt out some kind of well-meaning but infuriating cliche.
See, this doesn't happen.
Not only did Cheyenne save Sharpe's life, but Sharpe is saving other lives by starting P2V, a program to hook up pound dogs with traumatized vets, so someone else can have their face licked when they're putting a gun barrel in their mouth.
Or preferably, before that point.
The moral here is not to go around giving puppies to depressed people, because surprise gift puppies are always a bad idea. The point is that a person is driven to suicide by a whole bunch of different things, which build a wall around them, piece by piece, until the last piece falls into place and the wall is sealed so that there's no way out. Sometimes we look at all the problems that build up someone's wall of hopelessness and think there's no way any of the insignificant things we could do would be able to take it all down. But to break the illusion of there being no way out, you don't need to take down the whole wall, you just need to make one crack in it. One puppy lick, one phone call from Laila Ali, one corny song, one Internet stranger, one old Australian guy asking if you want to come in for a cup of tea.
Just one ray of light.
And one crack in that wall might be all it takes to turn things around and begin the long, tough job of tearing the whole thing down.
For more from Christina, check out 6 Well Intentioned Ways You're Ruining Your Dog and The 6 Worst Parts of Being Chinese (Not In The Stereotypes).