Behind a suicide attempt, a bigger story we won’t ever know

Once you get past the headline — Strangers pull together to rescue I-94 jumper — which uses cop talk to dehumanize a person in crisis, the Star Tribune provides a touching snapshot of people who still care about people.

A woman had crawled through a fence on onto the Dale Street I-94 overpass and was threatening to jump to her death. Angela Martin grabbed her as the woman let go of the fence. Others who had stopped also grabbed her. Still others ran onto I-94 to try to stop traffic.

And someone made sure their camera was rolling to capture the scene of a person’s most horrible moment of life. For what, exactly? Our entertainment? Our information?

As paramedics cared for the woman, identified only as a “jumper”, the crowd clapped, shook hands and slapped high-fives.

“To see police and people in the community spontaneously working together, it was a beautiful thing to see,” [Lucky] Rosenbloom said. People of all races and backgrounds, commuters and the homeless, stood shoulder to shoulder, working with officers in blue.

“It was something good to see when all you see is this negative stuff going on,” he said.

As the crowd began to disperse, Rosenbloom watched the officers chatting with those who remained. “They talked with people to make sure everyone was OK before they jumped in their squads and took off,” he said.

Said Krumgant: “It’s an awful thing to see and be a part of.” But moments like these bring people together, he said.

“I wasn’t born in this country,” said Krumgant, who immigrated from Latvia. “It reminded me why I joined the Marine Corps and why I always wanted to be a police officer — to bring people together.

And that was it; a good story. People working together. Cops talking with residents. Good stuff. A sincere “well done” to you all.

We won’t ever know what prompted a woman to let go of the fence. We won’t ever know what led her to crawl through the hole and to decide that the world she lives in offers no hope.

We won’t determine whether the society that saved her also failed her. We won’t know whether the help she’s getting this morning will include access to the services she may need to keep her from going back to the bridge.

We think the story is over. We think the story is about us.

  1. Listen The Current’s Mary Lucia and Bob Collins discuss this post

    August 3, 2016

Archive: ‘She never knew how beautiful she was’ (NewsCut)

  • Jack

    You are right – we may never know the rest of the story.

    Hopefully the fact that many came to her aid during this bleak period in her life will provide her with a sense that she is loved and cared for and prompts her to get the help that she needs.

    Mental health is an area that we all need to talk about.

  • MrE85

    It was quite the story, even if we know only part of it. I have worked in this neighborhood for 15 years, and was gratified to hear of the strangers who came together that night.
    Those who know this part of town may remember Lucky Rosenbloom’s dad, Tiger Jack, who operated a little business near that overpass. While much of old Rondo is gone, much of its spirit remains.

  • Anna

    Amateur video journalists capture distressing videos on an hourly basis these days. This is the society YouTube, Facebook and a host of other social media apps has forced upon us.

    This is one of the main reasons I no longer watch network news besides the local 6 p.m news. My main news source is radio, namely MPR and NPR.

    The video has obviously upset you, Bob as well it should. Far too many in our society no longer react to events like these and it is a warning sign.

    Take a step back. Go take a walk. Journalists are human, too and they feel sadness like anyone else.

      • Anna

        Mental health records are protected by HIPAA. They cannot be reproduced without written permission of the patient.

        While we want to protect the privacy of patients with serious persistent mental illness, it’s a double edged sword.

        We want to be open and talk about it, to take away the stigma but we want to keep it under wraps so no one can use it for exploitation and blame but until we get the fast lane under control on the Internet, namely unrestricted access to everyone and everything, nothing is going to change.

        Our right to privacy has been seriously eroded by our desire to have everything in a nanosecond.

        Unfortunately, that train has already left the station.

        • I have no problem with protecting the privacy of people undergoing mental health treatment.

          I have a BIG problem with the way we don’t even stop to ask “hey, what about the woman?” in a story that is framed as a good story.

          It’s nice and warm that people saved her. No quibble there. But there’s nothing good here, despite Lucky’s characterization. This is a sad story dressed up to look like a good one.

          It can’t always be about us.

          • Anna

            I agree with you, 100%. It’s the reason I don’t have any social media accounts except email (if you can consider that a social media account).

            Thanks for making us think before we start filming. Maybe the person who shot the video will read your blog and think before they “shoot.”

          • Jay T. Berken

            One of the things that I read while ‘trying’ to learn how to take care of a child was when a child is acting up to video them. When the storm has past, show the video to give them a concrete visual of their behavior and to talk about what feelings they were/are feeling. Maybe, unintentionally, if the “jumper” views that video, she could see something. I don’t know exactly what, but something to live on.

          • If she is suffering from a mental illness and that caused her to try to leap to her death, she’s not a child acting up.

            Also, she’s not a “jumper”, she’s a woman.

            One way we can start to change her life and everyone else’s in crisis, is to stop using copshop words to dehumanize people.

            This is also the one contribution we can make to improving things that we can do right now and which doesn’t require anyone else’s participation.

            Maybe she learned that people care about her — although lots of people who kill themselves know that people care about them — but maybe she also learned that she needs to find a more out-of-the-way bridge.

            Either way, the story is about her and too many people in just the same situation.

          • Jay T. Berken

            I apologize to the woman to refer to her as “jumper”. I meant it as a substitute for where her name would be and not dehumanize.

            We do not know the degree of mental illness she has. What drove her to this point, we will not know and it is not our business. Sometimes it could be that she is at such dire straights (e.g. economically or personally) that a situation could have brought her to this point. It could be a moment of “acting up”. I am not a professional on this.

          • Aly

            You’re guilty of the same oversimplification you’re critiquing. Good and bad are nothing more than bookends for oversimplification, and what happened isn’t really a story at all. It’s life, which people will never be able to truly capture precisely because we are bound to the narratives we use to describe life, not as it happens, but as we have the capacity to see it. And yeah, we may or may not know what happens to her after this, but we do know there will be something. The “story” would have ended at the jump. To quote an actual story by someone with a lot of insight about life “There isn’t a way things should be. There is just what happens and what we do.” Imagine if the people involved were too hung up on the fact she shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place to actually take action.

            You’re also being presumptuous. The story doesn’t include what is or isn’t being done for the person, and because you don’t know about it, you assume it’s not being done. You also don’t know what impact the story has on other people. They may dismiss it. They may project their own opinions about people who attempt suicide on it. They may pat themselves on the back. They may wallow in their own cynicism. Or they may take it as a reminder to be the person who acts instead of the person who ruminates on what should and shouldn’t be, and share it with others as a reminder to do the same.

            The author was wrong to reduce her to a jumper, but can’t be faulted for the inherent limitations of human narratives.

          • If she had jumped, the story would not have ended.

            And you’re wrong about presuming nothing is being done. What I say is we don’t KNOW these things.

            The question is are we interested in any of the answers that are systemic in nature?

            Are we? What are we doing to get them? And what are we going to do once we do get them?

            I make the point over and over again about the goodness of the saviors. That isn’t an issue.

            By the way, the Star Tribune is one of the news organizations who won’t cover suicides under the mistaken belief that to do so will only cause more suicides.

            Why is this story an exception?

    • Penny Gillen

      I think this story is about us, all of us. Why should we separate ourselves and view our world in a disassociative manner? The people saving her from that moment of peril chose to join her and became a remedy by not seeing it as about her alone.

  • Dave

    I’d like to think the unexpected help of others can be a turning point for that woman.

  • LEM

    Thank you, Bob. I had the same reaction. It was only told from the perspective of those feeling good about what they did; “we think the story is about us”. While I think it is important to see a community coming together, the woman who was actually at the center of the story was nowhere to be found. Perhaps she wanted it that way, but as readers, and fellow community members, we need to consider her as well.

  • lindblomeagles

    I would argue that there’s 3 parts to this story: Our’s, Her’s, and Our society’s persistent denial of mental illness, which has been highlighted a number of times on Newscut. At what point do we start demanding change? When mental illness affects someone we love? When mental illness, like drug overdoes currently, becomes a significant issue in rural communities across the country? Is it when mass gunmen, like Adam Lanza in Newtown Connecticut, take the lives of children every day of the week? When are we supposed to say the system is broken and it needs to be fixed?

  • Gwen Williams

    You’re right. The story isn’t about us. This story makes us feel better about ourselves and our society because we want to know the system works. But the larger question I have is, was there a bed in the local hospital psych ward for her without prematurely releasing another patient to make room for her? Will she be released too soon to make room for someone else? Will she be released to adequate housing? Will she get a case manager to help her access the resources and services she needs and follow her after she leaves the hospital? Does she have the financial resources to access a psychiatrist or a psychologist? Will she have choice?

    The most common answer to these questions is no. We like the story because we want to believe that society is ok. We see strangers come together to keep her from jumping and that makes us feel better. But, for an extremely large portion of people like this dear woman, the part of the story we don’t see is the part of the story we don’t want to see and we don’t want to support. This woman deserves her privacy, but we use that as an excuse to look away from the larger issue of mental health treatment because of the stigma. We don’t want to admit that mental illness is a societal problem because we, as a society, look down on people with mental illness. The fact that she was on that ledge says to me that her family and her community failed to support her in a way that would have kept her off that overpass in the first place, and I fear that the society will continue to fail her. But, in the name of privacy, we look away; but the real reason is stigma.

    May this woman have access to good doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, aides, psychologists, social workers, and other teachers and healers, programs, and services both in the hospital and beyond, to see her through. May we, as a society, examine our mental health system and support it in a way that ends the stigma.

    • crystals

      Amen.

      I was really troubled by the Star Tribune story. It felt self-congratulatory and lacking perspective of what this woman is going through, and will continue going through long after today. And, importantly, without apparent care or question as to what she may feel – now or in the future – about having one of her most personal, most vulnerable moments splashed across the newspaper for all to read. Shouldn’t she have a say in that? Wouldn’t each of us want a say in that?

      • This is also, I wrote in the Duluth suicide attempt post linked in comments above(or maybe below), why I’m very reluctant to allow the public release of any police bodycam video without the most stringent of safeguards.

      • Aly

        It’s no longer personal when it happens in public. It’s great that we’re showing her compassion yet some of the same people are condemning those who put their own lives on the line to help her, to say nothing of the lack of consideration for other drivers and their passengers. It wasn’t just the story of the woman who almost jumped but everyone involved because nobody exists in a bubble.

        In this case, I see a lot of different people making different choices for different reasons that in this moment led to a positive outcome (she made it through another minute of another hour of another day, and nobody else was hurt.) Any number of variations may have resulted in any number of outcomes for any number of people, and the discourse about everyone involved may be very different depending upon those outcomes, with little to no baring on the actual people themselves.

        And of course we all want control over how others see us. We don’t. We only have control over ourselves, and our own perceptions.

        • Who on earth has condemned those who tried to help her?

          and what’s the deal for filming and posting someone’s suicide attempt?

        • crystals

          1) Wow. There’s a lot here to unpack. 2) What Bob said.

    • Kassie

      A close friend of mine committed suicide two weeks ago. While I agree with what a lot you have to say, I also take offense to this: “The fact that she was on that ledge says to me that her family and her community failed to support her in a way that would have kept her off that overpass in the first place…” We don’t know how her friends and family have tried to support her. We don’t know if she had even told anyone about the pain and hurt she is experiencing or if there were any clues. I promise you that if she would have succeeded, her friends and family would be looking at every little detail for the past weeks, months and years trying to figure out what they could have done differently and are blaming themselves.

      • // We don’t know how her friends and family have tried to support her.

        There’s so much ignorance surrounding the topic and this is pretty much at the top of the list.

        This is the way it is in 2016. People are unable to distinguish between what they think they know and what they know and are mostly disinterested in finding out.

        There’s so much simplicity around suicide — if someone just asked for help, if someone just knew they were loved, if the family had only done something — that is based on creating a reality in the vacuum of ignorance and upon such things, unfortunately, public policy — and public perception — is formed.

        People can get insight any time they want into what families go through trying to avoid what they can see coming. There are plenty of resources for doing so. But it’s 2016, and people don’t want to do so because to do so would disturb the security of their false reality where everything is easy and people are weak and get what they deserve.

        • rallysocks

          ^^THIS^^

          • Gwen Williams

            I’m so sorry for your loss. It was too casual a statement. I apologize. I meant no disrespect to the family and friends of this desperate woman. I’m a suicide attempt survivor, myself. My point was that she had not gotten the help she needed through any other means before this dramatic act of desperation and that reflects on the systematic stigma and our neglected system of care to treat the mentally ill.

          • Sure, I get it and appreciate it. And yes, you’re right. It is undeniable that there is a systemic breakdown in getting access to the help that is desperately needed. This is particularly true with adults, who can only be held for 72 hours.

            I give credit to the Star Tribune for putting a suicide attempt on the front page. Keep in mind this is a news organization which has a policy of not running stories about suicide in the very questionable belief that to even mention it while cause another.

            And this is why the entire issue of suicide and the extent to which it is a legitimate health problem here and elsewhere, remains shrouded in secrecy and indifference.

  • rallysocks

    “But, for an extremely large portion of people like this dear woman, the part of the story we don’t see is the part of the story we don’t want to see and we don’t want to support. This woman deserves her privacy, but we use that as an excuse to look away from the larger issue of mental health treatment because of the stigma. We don’t want to admit that mental illness is a societal problem because we, as a society, look down on people with mental illness. The fact that she was on that ledge says to me that her family and her community failed to support her in a way that would have kept her off that overpass in the first place, and I fear that the society will continue to fail her. But, in the name of privacy, we look away; but the real reason is stigma.

    May this woman have access to good doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, aides, psychologists, social workers, and other teachers and healers, programs, and services both in the hospital and beyond, to see her through. May we, as a society, examine our mental health system and support it in a way that ends the stigma.

    Living in a rural area brings its own twist to this. In a sparsely populated county, services are few and far between. And you have to wait…and wait…and wait for an appointment because a therapist only comes once a month and they are already fully booked. So if you need help sooner rather than later, it means traveling–which is a problem for those who do not have the resources to travel. It seems like out here, we see medication being used as the first line of defense. I’ve seen people get sucked further and further into a sedation cocoon to where they can hardly function on a daily basis on their own–so, more services needed.

    It is getting better, but we still have a long way to go in having enough providers and facilities for those in crisis, especially. I do my part by being very public about my own battle with depression, but it never feels like enough.

  • Vicki Seiler

    Gwen Williams, Very well written. It made me sad to think the people that saved her giving high fives for saving a life just walked away and called themselves heroes. They didn’t think of this woman’s aftermath. Where does she go from here? Will she get the help she needs? Does she want help? I also wonder when people stop someone from committing suicide are they doing it for the person or themselves. Do they have a right to stop someone? Do they care to find out what pushed them that far? I think once the drama is over people go back to their own lives and think that’s the end of the story.

    • Aly

      How do you know what they did or didn’t think? And what they will or won’t do? We already know that the story is written through the lens of one person. I would never presume to know what will or won’t happen next, or anything about anyone involved. especially since I wasn’t even there and have only a story to rely upon for my insight. Also, people who jump from bridges are also endangering the lives of others. People absolutely have a right to step in because it’s not just that person’s life anymore when they seek to end it through means that inevitably involve and in this case, endanger, others.

    • Splash

      So you want a flow chart to see how it all plays out? A timeline too? Why? How would you feel if you had been there? I can tell you from my own experience that this kind of thing stays with a person for a long time. If they didn’t care, they wouldn’t have helped. I doubt they were there for “drama”.

      I agree with Aly, maybe some of the people who helped didn’t want an unsuspecting driver come along to have a woman basically drop out of the sky to the pavement or the hood of a car. Or didn’t want her to go through someone’s windshield and cause all kinds of damage to actual people driving along 94. Imagine a child seeing that? Someone I love very much had this happen and it did not bode well for their own mental health.

      By the way, to Gwen Williams, your comment that “the fact the woman was on the ledge tells us that her friends and family failed to support her in a way that would have kept her off that ledge”? That is quite a statement.

  • HaroldAMaio

    —We want to be open and talk about it, to take away the stigma
    We want to educate, inform, yes. Support anyone claiming a stigma, no.

    • I’ll support anyone who needs help, whether they believe they’re stigmatized or not. YMMV.

      • HaroldAMaio

        As will I, but I will work to empower them to appreciate they need never accept someone saying they are stigmatized.
        It took considerable resolve for the Women’s Movement to interdict rape/stigma, it will take equal resolve to interdict this version.

  • Aaron Wait

    I was listening to you talking about this with Mary Lucia on the Current this evening. Interesting discussion. Food for thought. One of my friends committed suicide at age 27, if only we knew what he was going through we may have been able to help.

  • William Hunter Duncan

    We’re good at arriving after the carnage to “save the day.” We are not good about setting up a society that empowers and lends a sense of dignity and self-respect.