There’s not much anyone can really say about a short story in the Pioneer Press today other than, “what’s your story?”
A person tried to kill himself on Wednesday afternoon, using an effective method around here: jumping from one of the bridges of downtown St. Paul and into the Mississippi River.
Few people ever survive.
Understandably, police can’t reveal much more about the plunge from the Robert Street bridge other than to congratulate a tow boat operator and all of those who responded to save him and absent any other elements of the story, it becomes a story of good people doing good things.
The problem, of course, is that’s not the story. The story is what led a 31-year-old man to reach the level of despair, climb onto the bridge railing, and jump?
Why was this his only choice? Did he seek help and, if so, why didn’t he get it?
I hope he tells his story but there’s no indication this is ever going to be a probability. But it’s not as if there’s a shortage of stories surrounding the mental health system in Minnesota to give us enough information to know it needs to be better.
Coincidentally, his plunge came on the same day The Commonwealth Fund released a report showing a third of children needing mental health treatment in 2016 didn’t get it, and that 66-percent of adults with symptoms of mental illness received no treatment between 2013-2015. In Minnesota, 44 percent of adults didn’t get the help they needed.
Last weekend, I attended the annual fundraiser for the Minnesota Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and, as is custom, a beneficiary of help and information spoke about her experience, joined by her mom.
Her body language said she wanted to be anywhere but on a stage, and, yet, there she was sharing her story of being a college student who suffered a mental health crisis, who finally got help at Regions Hospital. Her mom explained that first she spent 24-hours in a locked basement room before getting the care she needed.
Appropriately, they both got a standing ovation for their courage, leaving the obvious question hanging in the air for the rest of us: Why does someone in crisis need to spend 24-hours in a locked room before getting help?
We know why and — as NAMI-MN (disclaimer: my wife serves on the board) points out constantly — we know what works. And, yet, we pretend we don’t. Information we’ve got; it’s courage to do something other than what we’ve always done that we lack.
Still, it was nice to hear a story of what passes for success. It isn’t always the case.
Last year, the scheduled speaker didn’t show up. Unbeknown to us at the time, he was dead.
Jeffrey Asfahl, 52, of Ramsey, Minn., had jumped into the Mississippi River from the I-35W bridge one year ago today.