One of the most stressful things School Counsellors ever have to do is assist a student who is contemplating suicide. We never want a child to feel so hopeless that they feel that there is no reason left to live.
So I recognize how much courage it takes for a person that it is not in this profession to help when something so serious happens. A gigantic thanks to two very courageous Maritimers who stepped up to help . Thanks Robbie for letting me share your story.
Robbie’s Story …
As most of you know, I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time on March 1, 2012. That was the day I was able to help a young man from taking his own life.
It was just after 1 o’clock on a clear, but very cold day. I was pulling into my parking spot situated on the top level of the parkade. I noticed a young person sitting on the wrong side of the railing. To be honest, my first reaction was to grab my phone and take a picture of the young man who I would later know as (Stephen). I just thought he was a thrill seeker. He was texting on his phone,dressed in a warm coat with a hoodie underneath, and the hood pulled up over his head. I could not see his face as his back was towards me. As a matter of fact, I only got to see his face three times over the course of the next 25 minutes.
Just as I was about to take his picture (I’m still thinking he is young and cocky for sitting on the wrong side of the railing) he starts to turn his body slowly around. I start to panic and lower my phone so he wouldn’t see me taking his photo. His head moved very slowly back around, facing away from me. I never saw his face.
I was in a rush to get back to my office, so jumped out of my truck and headed to the stairs in the corner of the parkade. To this day I don’t know why I stopped short but things just weren’t adding up. I could tell he lived on the street. His clothes were very dirty and the speed his head was moving was very slow. It was freezing at -15, so I stopped and turned around.I walked slowly up to him and asked, “Are you ok?” No response. I asked him again. No response. I am about 15 feet away from him on his left side. I ask once more and he responds in a slurred voice, “Nobody cares”. My first thought when he said that was … oh my god, we’ve got a jumper! It went through my head just like the movie Old School.
Surprisingly I stayed very calm, plus he couldn’t see my face when I first realized he was going to take his own life. It wasn’t hard to tell drugs were at play as well. Not sure what to do after he responded, I moved closer to him. This is when my heart dropped. He shuffled across a four inch concrete ledge away from me. You or I couldn’t do what he did sober, let alone high on drugs. The positive thing was he stopped by a column and could put his hand on it to support himself if needed. He was shaking very bad and would act like he was going to jump two or three times.
I just kept asking him questions.
“What is your name?”
“Where are you from?”
“Do you miss home?”
“Do you miss water?”
Every question I asked him and he wouldn’t answer, I would answer myself.
“What is your name?”
“My name is Robbie.”
“Do you miss water?”
“I miss water, I’m from the east coast.”
For every 10 questions I asked, I would get about 1 answer in return, but we were starting to make a small connection. Finally he turned his head to see who was asking him all the questions and why. Then he turned away, but started answering a few of the question.
“What’s your name?’
“Where are you from?”
“The coast.” He slurred.
“Do you miss the water?” He turned slowly once more to look at me. This was the first time I saw his face. When all this was going on, I tried to get the attention of three cars that went by to call 911 for help, but no one stopped until Marty, a great guy from the Maritimes. He quickly realized what was going on and parked. I kept waiving at him to call 911, which he does. He walks slowly up and joins me and we both try to convince Stephen it’s not worth it. More time goes by and Marty and I are frozen, and so is Stephen. I was so scared he would fall, let alone jump. The parkade security showed up, but their radios were freaking Stephen out and he would start to shake as he was going to jump. We waved them to stay back a long distance.
The police also showed up and also stayed back with security. It was just the three of us. Marty and I took turns talking to Stephen and finally as I was telling him how cold it was, he just slowly reached his arm straight back as if to say, Ok, I’m done.
In a split second Marty and I had a hold of him and pulled him back over. Weird but at no time did I think we would drop him. I had the tightest grip ever on him, and so did Marty. From that moment, the police took over and got him downstairs and outside to the ambulance. I noticed when we pulled Stephen over, his phone fell on the ground. I grabbed it and looked at his last text. It was from his mother asking “are you ok?????” My heart broke, but I got the police to call her right away. Turns out Stephen wouldn’t cooperate with the police unless I was there, so I sat with him until they got the information they needed. He left in an ambulance and I never saw him again.
I’m very grateful. for how this story ended … here is more of my story
For a better part of my life I have battled and struggled with anxiety and depression. Throw ADHD on that and you have a wound-up-top on a rollercoaster.Depression is something you hide easy. All you have to do it smile.
That day when Stephen and I were together, we made a connection. We both missed water, but I also made my own connection with him. The only difference between us was I was wearing a nice suit and he was wearing a dirty coat someone gave to him. I knew exactly what was going through his head.
- Depression doesn’t know if you have a good job.
- Depression doesn’t know where you live.
- Depression doesn’t care if you are a good person or not.
I am very fortunate to have the best support people I could ever ask for. Two parents that are there for me for life and a wife that unconditionally loves and supports me. The one thing that’s harder to deal with than depression itself is to be married to someone that battles depression. So I am truly grateful for the support.
Don’t think that having depression slows me down. I have a saying “keep your feet moving” which I do very well. This doesn’t’ mean I don’t need help sometimes and it doesn’t mean I’m weak.
I think about many friends Mark and Colin, Felicity and family, Chad, Colette and family, Lori and her girls and their commonality is that they’ve all lost someone special. Someone that you never thought would take their own life. Someone that will never be replaced. Someone they loved very much.
They also gave me the courage to speak out and that it’s OK to talk about mental illness and depression. There probably will never be a cure for mental illness, but we always can be there for others. My father made a comment to me one time;
“Robbie, it doesn’t’ cost anything to care”.
Please understand that most people have some sort of struggle in life. Acknowledging and talking about it helps. Trust me, the best thing to do is to talk to someone who won’t judge you and who cares. They will never understand what you are truly going through, but can always offer love and support.
Robbie thanks for being you and allowing me to share your story #bellletstalk . I am sure someone reading this will understand that there are caring people like you and Marty who are willing to reach out to another human being when needed . I truly hope Stephen is alive and gets to read this some day knowing that two Maritimers who both live in Calgary were willing to step up to help.
ACCESS Mental Health
Provides mental health information and service options
Mon-Fri: 7:30am – 7:00p.m.
Telephone: 943-1500 (voicemail after hours)
Health Link Alberta
Access to nurse advice and health information
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Telephone: 943-LINK (5465) Calgary or 1-866-408-5465 (Toll Free)
General info about community, health, social, and government services across the province