Death is a part of life. And I’ve seen my share of the dead. Mostly family and friends, in sterile settings like hospitals and funeral homes. That’s death, American-style. But I’ve never wrapped my head around those who choose to end their lives themselves. Especially after watching my brother’s losing battle with leukemia. As ill as he was, from the chemo as much as from the disease, he still wanted so badly to live. But I realize it’s not so for everyone. Just blocks from my home is the High Bridge, with its reputation as St. Paul’s “hot spot” for suicides. When people jump from there neighborhood residents are mostly left out of the equation. It’s up to paid professionals, not civilians, to retrieve and identify the corpses from the river below. But yesterday I glimpsed something else, at another bridge only a couple of miles away. My son and I had left the house to go swimming at the Y. As we were entering the westbound side of 94, from atop a hill, I looked down. And on the eastbound side I saw a body. Just laying there on the freeway. Completely still. Surrounded by squad cars. I am so thankful my son was looking the other way and missed it entirely. Later I learned the man had jumped from the Marion Street Bridge over the freeway, into oncoming traffic. That left me wondering if the location was random. If he’d reached his breaking point and that’s just where he happened to end up. It isn’t far from the Dorothy Day Center. Or if he intentionally chose such a public place, on a busy Saturday afternoon, where drivers and passengers in the cars who hit him would be left with emotional trauma of their own.
Life can be hard and cruel but I’ve never seriously entertained the idea of throwing in the towel. We all have our share of problems. Obviously some problems are more severe than others. And some of us are better equipped to deal with whatever comes our way - be it with stronger survival instincts or greater apathy or solid support networks - while others are less equipped to cope in general or debilitated by mental illness. And these levels of resilience fluctuate throughout our lives. I’ve had some lowdown no good times but feel lucky to have pulled through them. I’m like a human Weeble (”Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”). But there is help out there. Here are some mostly local mental health resources:
- Crisis Connection, 24 hour crisis counseling by telephone
- Free walk-in counseling, available in Minneapolis
- COPE team (Community Outreach for Psychiatric Emergencies) - Useful for individuals who are having a mental health crisis, not on drugs or alcohol, displaying behavior that may be a danger to themselves or others
- Ramsey County Crisis Center: (651) 266-7900
- Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) Suicide Prevention/Crisis Hotline and Acute Psychiatric Services: (612) 873-2222
- Sliding scale mental health services from MPSI Psychoanalytic Center: (612) 824-3800
- Services for University of MN students
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
If you are in immediate danger and need help call 911 to request a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) officer:
The Minnesota CIT Officer’s Association has a mission of providing training for law enforcement officers in mental health awareness and in how to safely and effectively defuse situations involving a person in a mental health crisis by using verbal de-escalation skills before using force.”
This is in Minnesota, but I’m guessing (hoping) the same goes for 911 in other parts of the country. I’m still wondering about that man from yesterday. If he’d still be alive if he had called 911 for help, or if someone else had called on his behalf. We will never know.