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The Golden Gate. Monday July 14, 2014

Anyone who heard the Today programme on Radio 4 on 28th June will have been astonished and moved by the piece on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Since it was built in 1937 over 1400 people have committed suicide by jumping from it.

Now, after a successful campaign, it has been voted to spend money on a stainless steel safety net. Among those involved in the decision was Kevin Hines,and we heard him interviewed by John Humphries.

Kevin is bi-polar, and aged 19 he jumped from the bridge. At the split second his hands let go of the rail he says he was snapped out of his psychosis and filled with regret, praying to God to let him live.

He hit the water at 75 mph, like crashing into a brick wall. He was then vacuumed 80 feet down. Still praying, he struggled to push himself to what he hoped was the surface. He started to see a circle of light, and tried to aim at it, when he felt something brushing his legs. All he could think was that he had survived the fall, only to be killed by a shark. He kicked at it, but it would not go. Then he found himself at the surface, where he stayed bobbing around until the coastguards rescued him.

In hospital he nearly died of pneumonia. His teeth had been knocked out, but worse was the injury to his spine. Some lower vertebrae had shattered, and shards had embedded into internal organs. Surgeons painstakingly removed them, then mashed them into a paste which was inserted into a titanium tube and inserted in his spine, thus saving him from life in a wheel chair.

In a strange twist of life, he later met with one of the bystanders who had been there next to him when he jumped. Kevin mentioned he was convinced the shark would kill him, and was astonished when the man told him there was no shark. A sea lion had stayed with him, supporting him right up until his rescue.

He now takes nothing for granted, every day he recalls how he wanted to live.

Sadly, there are no sea lions or rescue boats where I live in the Midlands. But there are the great people on Moodscope, helping to keep each other afloat just that bit longer.

A Moodscope member.

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Ian Forsyth Mon, Jul 14th 2014 @ 4:56am

We have a very similar bridge in Vancouver called the Lion's Gate Bridge, it's a very tall suspension bridge and very popular with what we call jumpers. As this is the only bridge out of downtown to go to Whistler or to take the ferry to the Sunshine Coast or Vancouver Island, it's always busy. And of course when some poor soul has gotten to the point of wanting to end it all, it means massive traffic tie-ups, and people rushing to the other bridge about 10 miles away. But with the Vancouver Police on one side and the West Vancouver (a different city) Police on the other side, they close the bridge and give their full attention and all their skills to try talking the jumper down. And most times they succeed.....I can't begin to know how it must feel when after hours of talking, the person jumps anyway, but traffic mayhem aside, I love how these two police forces inconvenience 1000's of commuters, tourists, and transit passengers to try to save one life who was seemingly ready to throw it all away. In the depth of my recent despair, after a series of events over the last few years that included 3 deaths of close family, my own near death, a child's attempted suicide, marital turmoil, and the losing my job without cause, I was driving home from that last awful day when I was escorted to my car, and driving over that bridge back to downtown where I live, I slowed down mid-span and gave it some thought.....then kept driving....just because my day was ruined, I couldn't see ruining some awesome public servants and about 3-4000 people just wanting to get home to their families or cats or dogs or whatever waits for them to come home. And for now and I hope for always, that's a good enough reason for me not to end it matter how many days in a row my Moodscope is in the single digits.

Melanie Lowndes Mon, Jul 14th 2014 @ 6:22am

Wow I found the blog so moving - had me in tears - I had heard the story of this man who survived but not the bit about the sea lion. Animals are so amazing.
Thank you also Ian for sharing your story and that of the Vancouver bridges and police. The way I see it - all the sad things that happen to us point to us looking for strength inside. All best wishes.

Norm de Plume Mon, Jul 14th 2014 @ 6:42am

I'm very glad you didn't jump Ian, and not just for the folks who would have been inconvenienced. That said, it seem to me that $76 million could be spent in a better way. Sadly this will not prevent suicides, merely suicides at the bridge.
Sorry if my comment is too negative for this wonderful site. I wish you all a good day.

kassi Mon, Jul 14th 2014 @ 7:51am

Thanks for sharing this very moving story. I agree animals are amazing. My dog is totally fearless and the first to show up when one of us needs a hug. We humans really can instantly chsnge our mind once we have let go of something, I really know this. That's why I try to take baby steps when making big decisions.
Great post! Thanks

Rupert Mon, Jul 14th 2014 @ 8:18am

Very interesting blog. It makes you wonder how many people in those circumstances have a last minute change of heart or if that is a natural reaction when everything is suddenly brought into a hugely sharp focus in a split second - liek seeing your life before your eyes. I guess it is not the same for everybody as sadly some may just be too weary with fighting the constant battles with the mind.

Anonymous Mon, Jul 14th 2014 @ 8:27am

Lovely story...

Julia Mon, Jul 14th 2014 @ 9:55am

Hi Ian. You write so well. I was spellbound wanting to read your story. I was sorry to read though that you too had fleetingly contemplated suicide but I think it was the bridge that made you think of it rather than your recent life events propelling you towards that thought.I imagine nearly all those wanting to end their life make a special journey to these bridges. It's unfortunate that these links to popular spots provide the opportunity. Begs a question really.

Mary Blackhurst Hill Mon, Jul 14th 2014 @ 10:17am

A year or so ago I posted a blog (which has since disappeared) for another website, featuring the Guardians of the Golden Gate - the Californian Highway Patrol and particularly a veteran of that Highway Patrol, Kevin Briggs. These "Guardians" have talked to many many people on the bridge and saved many lives. But not all, and they grieve over the ones they couldn't save or never knew about. Kevin Briggs has now retired, and just this May gave this moving TED talk:

I am very sure that both Kevins will have been delighted to hear about the safety net. I know I am. Thank you for posting that Valerie and I wonder if Hull will consider something similar for their bridge. Eighteen years ago I was very seriously considering utilising it for a similar purpose. Obviously I didn't, but it was a very serious temptation at the time!

heather Mon, Jul 14th 2014 @ 10:24am

What a wonderfully moving and inspiring story. A joy to read. Thank you Valerie. Love Heather xx

Mary Blackhurst Hill Mon, Jul 14th 2014 @ 10:25am

Bless you Ian, you write so well (ever consider writing a blog for Moodscope?). Where I live we have a viaduct for the trains. We frequently have ill and desperate people on this viaduct as it's a bit of a two for one: one way the fast London to Edinburgh trains, the other way an eighty foot drop to the busy road below. When everything in town has to stop for a "jumper" it's very tempting to be furious with them for their inconsideration, but we are not in their shoes and we cannot feel their agony. On the other hand, I know some members of the police force who themselves get frustrated at the repeat offenders who so obviously need medical attention when the NHS is cutting down on Mental Health beds (but that's a whole different can of worms!) All the best, Ian and may your Moodscope Score move up and stay up.

Julia Mon, Jul 14th 2014 @ 10:51am

Hi Valerie.Your blog has obviously touched some nerves. I know little about suicide but used to work as a prison visitor for a womens' jail where one suicide would provoke sometimes many, copy cat ones. Such a complex subject.

Jlia Mon, Jul 14th 2014 @ 10:53am

And how lovely about that sea lion. x

Anonymous Mon, Jul 14th 2014 @ 11:46am

I was so touched to read the story about the Sea lion rescuing You too. God must have given you a second chance as you prayed. Now make the most of this gift YOUR LIFE! and realise you only get one LIFE. What we all fail as humans to realise is just that life is about making mistakes and learning from them. We are only a child of the Universe not necessarily here to do things right but to try our best to make a good life and enrich others as we go blindly stumbling along. If you read the bible and believe its words it goes back to Adam and Eve discovering Knowledge. Its what we do with this info that counts....I am sorry to be philosophical, and pls excuse any spelling errors too. We are only human beings not God! : )

Anonymous Mon, Jul 14th 2014 @ 3:08pm

Very moving story !
Thank-you for sharing it with us.


Anonymous Mon, Jul 14th 2014 @ 6:23pm

This was a brilliant post. Thank-you!

Anonymous Mon, Jul 14th 2014 @ 7:32pm

Just awesome.

Anonymous Mon, Jul 14th 2014 @ 10:09pm

Hi Ian, I agree with the others...your writing is open and straight from the heart, I'd love to read more! What a wonderful combination of Police response. Very real and very meant. I hope that for those they can save, they can feel that power of care even just a little, humans are meant to love. (My grammar is hopeless but i think you'll all know what i mean!) I've been to Vancouver once, loved it. You've had a lot to deal with, hope some happier times are coming to you. Love from the room above the garage.

Anonymous Mon, Jul 14th 2014 @ 10:16pm

Valerie, what a brilliant post. And the sea lion... Thank you for this today, I needed, and found, perspective.

Elizabeth, if you are reading, wishing you well for tomorrow's exam. Les, hello, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Goodnight all, love from the room above the garage.

yolanda andrews Mon, Jul 14th 2014 @ 11:26pm

Jesus! This story was really incredible! Yes! Not matter what Religion we profess I pray every single day for all of us... Our mind is out of control when we are having a an episode... God bless us and the whole humanity!

Anonymous Wed, Jul 16th 2014 @ 9:40am

How beautiful.

Silvia A Thu, Jul 17th 2014 @ 3:21am

Ian, hope to see a blog of yours.

Silvia A Thu, Jul 17th 2014 @ 3:31am

Mary thanks for the link. Could you please explain me what was Kevin job before he got retired? I also did not understand what the parents told him next day ( the first case he mentioned).

He said "just listen", Recently I read of a woman who lost her children. And she explained that no matter she has the experience, when she tries to help another person she discovered that the most important thing is to listen, just this.

I hope to remember this. Listen.

Silvia A Thu, Jul 17th 2014 @ 3:36am

I second you. Thanks, Valerie.

GATE 2015 Tue, Jul 29th 2014 @ 8:07pm

Thanks for sharing this very moving story. I agree animals are amazing. My dog is totally fearless and the first to show up when one of us needs a hug. We humans really can instantly chsnge our mind once we have let go of something, I really know this. That's why I try to take baby steps when making big decisions.
Great post! Thanks

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