Thursday, April 17, 2014

In our opinion: Heroic act is a lesson on intervening with people considering suicide

Deseret News editorial

Published: Sat, Dec. 28 6:19 p.m. MST

 There are occasions when we witness someone doing something heroic and wonder if we are capable of the same kind of action.

There are occasions when we witness someone doing something heroic and wonder if we are capable of the same kind of action.

(Shutterstock)

There are occasions when we witness someone doing something heroic and wonder if we are capable of the same kind of action. If a stranger attempted suicide by jumping from the top of a stadium concourse, how many of us could summon the spontaneous will to jump in front of the falling person, putting our life in jeopardy to save theirs?

The story of a 61-year-old Marine Corps veteran who did exactly that a few weeks ago resonates as a rare example of legitimate heroism – an ultimate act of unselfishness that reminds us that altruism lies at the heart of the human spirit.

There is another lesson in the actions of Donnie Navidad, who broke the fall of a woman who jumped 45 feet as crowds were filing out of the Oakland Coliseum after a November football game. It’s a lesson about the responsibility we innately share toward each other’s well being — that when someone has given up on their life, others have not.

It’s a meaningful lesson at a time when we suffer in Utah from a high rate of suicide, particularly among teenagers and young adults. The actions of Navidad are metaphorical testimony for what suicide prevention experts say is the most effective way to stop someone from taking their life – simply to intervene.

Navidad’s intervention came at the last moment. Who knows what opportunities there might have been for someone else to act on behalf of the woman whose troubles led her to the stadium perch? But there is ample evidence that awareness leading to some kind of intervention is the keystone of prevention.

It is the concept behind the law recently passed in Utah requiring schools to notify parents of cases of bullying, which is known to be a precursor to suicide attempts. Such notification is in essence an act of intervention. Similarly, a new prevention campaign in Utah includes efforts to educate parents about warning signs they may see in their child’s behavior so they may appropriately intervene.

The incident in Oakland is unusual only because of its setting and the result. Statistics show one-third of all teenagers have experienced suicidal thoughts. Every day in Utah, there are three suicide attempts requiring medical treatment involving 18-24 year olds.

The symptoms that foreshadow a suicide are often visible long before a final act is attempted. It was heroic for Navidad to do what he did. It is likewise heroic for all of us to act in whatever way we can so that we might break another person’s fall into a place of hopeless desperation.

Recommended
1. Pagan
Salt Lake City, UT,
Dec. 28, 2013

*'Psychologists nix gay-to-straight therapy' - AP - 08/05/09

'The American Psychological Association declared Wednesday...(sic) No solid evidence exists that such change (to orientation) is likely, says the report, and some research suggests that efforts to produce change could be harmful, inducing depression and suicidal tendencies.'

In attempting to prevent suicide…

has anyone given thought to stoping anti-LGBT hate?

2. samhill
Salt Lake City, UT,
Dec. 28, 2013

Like many others I have personal experience with trying to intervene to save someone who is despondent, seemingly to the point of suicide. Unfortunately, also like many others, I found that for some there is no way of successfully intervening short of involuntary confinement and oversight of the subject.

Clinical depression and suicidal thinking is often not something that is amenable to outside influence, however sophisticated or even professional it may be. Happily, there are some exceptions, and they are frequently difficult to discern accurately.

Consequently, though it may result in agonizing disappointment when unsuccessful, we should do always do all we can to convey our love to anyone we think may be suffering from suicidal inclinations and help them know and understand why fighting for life and joy, starting with their own, is always a worthwhile endeavor...even duty.

3. Really???
Kearns, UT,
Dec. 28, 2013

My heroes--the people I believe have done more in my communities to prevent suicides--are Carol Lynn Pearson and the people behind Mormons Building Bridges. They were answers to prayers when I was to the point of giving up. They gave me hope when I felt like there wasn't much; God bless them.

4. 10CC
Bountiful, UT,
Dec. 28, 2013

There has been a fair amount of research done on the topic of suicide. There are many people who experience a temporary despondency, and if they have the means to easily and quickly take their own life, they often will.

But if that method is not available, they will often recover, the temporary impulse will pass.

Sri Lanka used to have the highest suicide rate in world, with the method of choice being a very lethal form of pesticide, which was unregulated. After the government began more closely regulating this pesticide, suicide rates fell by 50%.

There are many methods for a person to use, but the availability of quick, irreversible methods means there will be preventable suicides. In Utah that means firearms, and 80% of gun deaths in Utah are suicides, which undoubtedly contribute to our high rate.

If you know somebody who is not doing well, you might consider ways to separate them from firearms, or at least ammunition. Given the status of guns in our culture, and our definition of freedom, this won't be easy, but like the Marine in Oakland, you should try.

5. Ultra Bob
Cottonwood Heights, UT,
Dec. 28, 2013

When a poker player loser realizes that his losing will only continue because of the skill and resources of the more expert players his best plan of action is to drop out of the game. Despite all the encouragement and predictions from the other players, of reversal, his losing only continues.

The world is like a gigantic poker game. The more skilled and better financed players are usually the ongoing winners and the lesser players the losers. Because of their power and skill, the winners get to make the rules. And they do, to their advantage.

Even when the losers, by their numbers, are able to change the rules, the power players whittle away at the changes until the losers are right back where they started.

The story of America is an instance where the losers managed to gain the upper hand for a while. But as time goes bye the power players are whittling away at the changes. It is likely that we will revert to the world before the American revolution and for many of us who have tasted the better life we may seek other alternatives.