I've been reading this book that I mentioned in a post before, "The Survivors Club". One section talks about people who have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and survived. I think something like 97 percent of people don't survive. But there was one story that impressed me and I have thought a lot about it.
One person who jumped and survived was a teenager at the time. He was later diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder, and happened to be having depression at the time that he jumped. He said he felt very deeply that he needed to end his life. He spent weeks planning it, and wrote several suicide notes. Finally, on the day he had planned, he took a bus to the Golden Gate bridge. One his way, he deep down kept hoping that someone would stop him. He told himself that if even one person reached out to him, he wouldn't do it. He was crying, but no one on the bus said a word to him. When they finally reached the last stop, he hoped that maybe the bus driver would notice he was crying and say something. But the driver just said, "Get out.". So he got out and walked up to the bridge. He walked back and forth for some time, and was sobbing. He was hoping just one person would reach out to him. Finally a nice woman did reach out to him, but she didn't ask why he was crying, she just asked him to take a picture for her. He said the voice in his head just kept telling him to jump. So finally he jumped off the bridge.
Immediately he realized that this was a bad idea, and he realized he wanted to live. He said a quick prayer to ask God for help. The entire fall only lasts about 4 seconds, but in that time, he quickly realized that if he was going to survive, he needed to land feet first. So he flipped himself around, and was in a sort of sitting position when he hit the water. Experts say that hitting the water at a 45 degree angle, feet first, is the only way of possibly surviving. When he hit the water, he hurt his legs, and then couldn't move them. He went under many feet, and thought his lungs would burst before he could reach the top. He wasn't able to use his legs to propel himself up, but finally his head broke the surface and he was able to breathe.
After he reached the surface, he couldn't keep himself afloat very well. Suddenly he kept feeling something pushing against him, keeping him afloat. He later realized it was a sea lion that probably sensed that he needed help, and was helping to keep him afloat. A boat was nearby, and stopped and picked him up, and he was rushed to the hospital. Today, he still struggles with depression, but he works to keep medicated, and to work with teenagers who might have depression.
Sometimes my family gives me flack for talking to strangers. I talk in the grocery line, I talk wherever I go. But after reading this story, I wondered how many times I have been the only person they talked to that day. Are there other people we pass each day who are just looking for someone to reach out to them? How much does it cost us to talk to them, and reach out? I may appear to be a geek, but I think that in some cases my efforts might pay off.