Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Bridge

I recently rented a documentary called The Bridge. It's a film by Eric Steele (no pun intended, I assume) for which he rigged cameras to film the Golden Gate Bridge for one year.

He recorded over two dozen suicides.

He chose three or four of those jumpers and interviewed family and friends to learn more about their lives and what made them want to jump. What surprised, and infuriated me, was the recurring theme of the loved ones admitting that the jumper had been threatening to end his or her life for months, if not years, before actually doing so.

One of the first things you learn in crisis training is to always take a threat seriously. This seems to be the one thing family and friends of the deceased did not do. One father even admitted that when he and his wife came home to find their son gone, they knew this was the day his son had finally done it. No need for a painful goodbye letter, oh no, because the family already knew why and how this boy was going to kill himself.

Yet they did nothing to get him help.

None of the family or friends of the deceased ever mentioned anything like, "well, I tried to encourage Suzy to get help, but she didn't want to," or "Tommy went to a counselor for awhile, but it didn't work." Probably they didn't mention it because they never encouraged Suzy or Tommy to get help.

One woman was even interviewing that her friend told them every day that he was going to kill himself over the course of several years. She gave a sort of incredulous laugh when she admitted this. I gave a sort of incredulous and horrified snort when I watched this.

In addition to interviewing family and friends of the deceased, the filmaker also spoke with passersby who saw the suicides, and one jumper who survived.

The one thing that really astounded me about the film was that in every scene that a person jumped to their death, you can see dozens of people biking, running, and strolling by on the bridge.

The jumper climbs over the railing. No one says anything.

The jumper hangs on to the railing while summoning the courage to let go. None of the passersby seem to think anything is out of order.

The jumper leaps off the bridge to his or her death. Tourists look shocked, run to the railing, and call the police.

The most galling interview of all came from a photographer who had been taking pictures from the bridge when he saw a girl climb over the railing. The filmakers obtained his prints from that day, and we see a series of shots as he is approaching the jumper. We see her swing her leg over the rail. We see her standing on the ledge. Here's another one from a different angle of her standing on the ledge.

Through all of this he is interviewing that he knew she was going to jump (yet did nothing about it). The photog finally admits that he came to his senses, put down his camera (got enough shots first scumbag?), then grabbed her jacket and pulled her to safety.

It turns out she had done this before and police believe she did it as a cry for help.

The one jumper who survived talks about being on the rail with people passing. A tourist asks him to take a photo of her and the bay. As he's interviewing he sighs and says, "she didn't even care or realize that I was going to jump." His only desire was for someone to notice him and talk him back to the other side.

What do we know about suicide? That the majority of people who commit suicide, or try to, are combating strong feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and uselessness. They feel worthless; like the world won't notice if they're gone.

It was horrifying to watch this documentary and see that feeling all but proven as the tourists and bystanders walk past a jumper and not do or say anything. These jumpers merely wanted someone to notice them, someone to talk them down, to care.

We learn at the end of the film that the Golden Gate Bridge is the number one place in the world where people go to commit suicide.

1 comment:

Ms. Quarter said...

I hate Blogger and its inability to properly record the number of times I hit enter in a post in my feeble attempts to create paragraphs. Let me have my paragraphs you facists!