A group of truckers banded together to stop a man from dying by suicide after he attempted to jump off a highway overpass.
On Tuesday morning, 13 heroic Michigan truckers stopped their vehicles in the middle of I-696 to create both a wall and a makeshift platform to shorten the distance the man would have fallen if he had jumped.
According to local news station Fox 2 Detroit, police received a call just before 1 a.m. that an unidentified man was standing on the overpass threatening to jump. When the Michigan State Police arrived, they closed all lanes of the 696 and signaled semi-trailer trucks to stop under the bridge and form a wall, covering both sides of the freeway.
A man named Chris Harrison, who wrote on Facebook that he was driving one of the trucks, posted a photo with the caption, “Teamwork in Detroit..guy over on the bridge in the white was trying to commit suicide, truckers all lined up to try to prevent it.”
While the truckers were positioned, the police talked the man into leaving the bridge unharmed. Harrison wrote on Facebook that after the ordeal was over, the police stopped at each truck to shake the drivers’ hands and thank them for their efforts.
“We received a call that a man had climbed over the fence of the overpass, and we commandeered the truck drivers to stop,” Lt. Mike Shaw of the Michigan State Police, who organized the intervention, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “In this case, we were able to identify the trigger that led the man to this point and take him to the hospital.”
What happens next for the man is unknown, but according to Julie Cerel, president of the nonprofit American Association of Suicidology, each state has systems in place to ensure a person receives treatment. “Usually, a person is evaluated in the emergency room to ensure they aren’t acutely suicidal,” Cerel tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Unfortunately, some learn quickly that the easiest way to leave is to answer in a favorable way; other times a person learns he or she has options and support.”
If a person has a mental health condition that can be treated, they’re given medication, and if they’re homeless, there’s an attempt to secure housing. What happened in Michigan, says Cerel, is an example of ordinary people driving by who stopped to save someone’s life. “It’s incredible when a method this lethal can be stopped,” she says.
Sgt. Kevin Richards Briggs, a retired member of the California Highway Patrol and a crisis intervention specialist who has stopped several hundred people from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that in similar situations he has anywhere from five minutes to several hours to make an impact.
“I usually introduce myself to the person in crisis and ask their permission to approach,” says Briggs, adding that he tries to close the physical gap between him and a subject without endangering his own life. “If they’re open to it, I ask basic questions about their life, in part as a distraction and to show that someone cares about them.”
Briggs says it’s key for anyone in his position not to consume the conversation. “Even if I can relate to the other person’s problems, I keep the focus off me to avoid an unintentional comparison unless I’m directly asked,” he says. If his efforts don’t resonate, Briggs calls for backup, be it a person of the same sex or ethnicity, who may succeed in establishing a connection.
“Most of the time,” he says, “people just want to be heard and validated.”
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