Derek has been working in care and dementia care for over 18 years and is a dementia campaigner and advocate. Derek blogs and tweets on the topic. Derek is a Dementia Friends Champion and a Purple Angel ambassador. His ambition is to see a national 24/7 dementia helpline set up in the UK. Derek is huge fan of the NHS in the UK. He lives in Hertfordshire and is a keen football fan.
Can you imagine getting to a place in your life where you are standing on the side of a London bridge contemplating jumping in the River Thames.
Just think about that opening sentence for a minute. It is a horrifying thought isn’t it.
We have all seen the films and soap operas where, out of desperation, people contemplate jumping to their death and then at the last second someone talks them out of it. Although that’s TV and film drama, it does happen in real life. As hard as it may seem to at the time, there are people who take the time to talk to someone in this situation and not simply walk on by. It only takes a few kind words to strike up a conversation and form a bond in a very passive way.
I was very fortunate to meet two such people last week in London. I will not name names, but I will describe what happened in brief. Mr A was on the verge of jumping off a bridge into the Thames one morning. People walked past him on their way to work totally ignoring him. It was rush hour, lots of blinkered people walked by. However one man, Mr B, saw him and although in a rush himself, did stop and take time to chat to Mr A. Small talk to begin with but gradually a conversation of sorts started. It finished up with Mr B being able to talk Mr A out of the precarious situation and into having coffee with him. Before they went off for coffee though the police arrived and whisked poor Mr A away.
To cut a very long story short, both men lost contact that day but were reunited some years later.
By merely stopping and taking the time to chat and spend some time at the side of a busy London bridge Mr B saved Mr A from certain death.
What was his magic secret? There isn’t one. Its very simple really. He took the time to stop and take an interest in this man. They are now firm life long friends and Mr B is thriving in life.
I asked Mr B if he would have jumped and he replied by saying that he would. He had a history of mental illness and depression. He was very open when we spoke and it was tragic to hear that he felt he was a burden to his family and friends and that they would be better off without him.
Words cost nothing, but are priceless to someone living with depression and with a mental illness. Both are hidden disabilities and can be masked very easily. But we have the opportunity to spot the signs and step in with valued comments and try and make that person feel wanted and worthy. Of course, it’s a two-way ideology. It’s also a good and brave thing to do to talk about your problems in the open. As the old BT advert used to say ‘ it’s good to talk’. Giving time to listen is paramount and having the bravery to come forward and say ‘I’ve got some problems that I would like to discuss’ are the keys to helping overcome depression and thoughts of suicide. Just being there, as Mr B was, is all that it takes.
Just a quick fact on suicide. Each suicide affects at least 20 people. I was quite shocked when I heard that fact. But I was heartened to know that there are ways to prevent this situation from happening.
Finally I must say that it was an honour to meet both Mr A and Mr B.