What led a woman to consider jumping off a St. Paul bridge?

A woman tried to jump off the Robert Street bridge in St. Paul yesterday and she lived to talk about it, at least for another day, thanks to the St. Paul Fire and Police Departments.

Suicide attempts don’t generate news stories but this time people in the area took cellphone video of the rescue attempt, so it was only natural that the focus on the story is the heroic work of officers who told the woman that people really do love her.

(Video link)

“As I approached I was making contact with the officers, talking with them, not verbally, just with hand signals and saying, ‘I’m here, I think we should do this.’ As I got closer, I was able to see that this was starting to deteriorate further and as I got right up alongside her, I signaled we’re doing this and they reacted just like I did. They grabbed onto me and we grabbed onto her and we pulled her over to safety,” Deputy Fire Chief Conrad Ertz tells KSTP.

But there’s always an untold story. What led a woman to sit on the bridge and think that jumping was better than living another day? Did she try to get help (where she sat was literally in the shadow of the building where help is available) and, if so, where and why did the effort fail?

There’s only so much a fire chief and police officers can do in situations like this. The rest is up to the community to figure out the answers to the questions we need to ask more often.

  • MrE85

    That’s the sad truth of mental illness, isn’t it? That the person who needs help may be unable to help themselves.

    Whatever this woman’s story is, I hope it has a happy ending.

  • Veronica

    I just a brochure for Mental Health First Aid training and it looks amazing. It’s only $75 and imagine if a lot of us took it and watched out for each other even more?

  • Rottingwell WalkerBitten

    Um, suicide?

    • I’m sure that strikes you as a clever retort except that to also think so, the rest of us would have to have the same ignorance of what suicide is and be equally incapable of discussing it intelligently.

    • Jim in RF

      Thank God for the anonymity of internet comments, huh, Mr R-WB.

  • Justine Parenteau Wettschreck

    That the firefighters are expected to do much after talking her down off the ledge is a sad situation. I spent 18 years as part of a small town fire & rescue, and by that reasoning, where does your commitment end? I don’t mean this in an ugly, selfish way, but in a sad one – you can’t fix everyone, any more than I could keep neighbors from having sudden heart attacks or make sure that everyone cleaned their chimneys to prevent a house fire.

    Suicide is one of those things that afterward everyone says, “How sad.” There are hotlines, websites, people to talk to… it’s just getting the right people to use them. Keeping them available. And yes, checking for the metaphorically clean chimneys. Incidentally, they don’t teach that in First Responder class or Fire Fighter I.

    • I’m not aware of anyone who as much as hinted that cops and firefighters should do something after talking people out of suicide. In fact, I actually said that.

      What I’m suggdsting is rather than declaring as fact that which we are guessing is reality, we actually start asking the right questions as society that might lead to fewer calls to bridges in St. Paul and elsewhere.

      I’m sorry, but “we can’t fix them all” is not the proper way to evaluating whether we’re not fixing ones we could be.

  • Suicide is quite often the result of mental illness. The attempt itself is not the illness.

  • Bose

    Bob, I appreciate your attention toward mental health and suicide-related issues. With a news clip like this, it’s natural to ask, what one thing prompted this person to be out there, putting her life on the line?

    The most likely answer is that it’s complicated.

    I lost my partner to suicide at the end of 2000… a bunch of stuff came crashing down on him, including his long-standing trreatment for depression and his 2 previous attemptts, not to mention his aunts/uncles in the same boat, with him also working through coming out as a gay man.