NOTE: This is a blog post that originally appeared on Listverse. Note that in nearly every case, there was a complete stranger ready to help, whether it was in-person, online, or using social media. This is in keeping with the spirit of The Friendship Bench: often helping people can start with a simple “hello”.
Stories about suicide are depressingly common. Turn on the news or type “suicide” into Google and you’ll be assaulted with countless tales of misery, depression and bitter, lonely deaths.
However, not every attempted suicide ends badly. Sometimes, just occasionally, people reach rock bottom, only to find a tiny flicker of hope—that microscopic moment that makes them realize life is still worth living.
10. The Long Wait
In December 2001, Barry Parr was working as a window cleaner in a tiny UK village. One afternoon, just as he was finishing a job, he heard a yell and looked up to see a 14-year-old girl preparing to hang herself from a nearby tree.
Already showing signs of his incipient heroism, Parr grabbed his ladder and raced across the road to try and talk her down. And that’s when things got real.The moment Parr started to climb his ladder, the girl jumped.
Luckily, Parr managed to catch her in his arms, holding her far enough off the ground to save her life. Less luckily, he found himself now stuck up a ladder, holding a violent teenage girl desperate to squirm out of his grasp and finish the job.
Bear in mind this was the middle of a very cold winter, and the two were all alone in the village. How long do you think Parr managed to hold her up for? Ten minutes? Twenty? It was a whole hour.
For an entire hour, Parr balanced on his ladder, holding a hysterical, suicidal girl aloft in the searing cold. Eventually someone realized this wasn’t performance art and called the cops—but not before Parr had proven how far the world was ready to go to keep this one lonely girl alive.
9. The Kiss That Stopped A Suicide
One of the worst things about being young is the way passing things seem somehow permanent. So when an unnamed 16-year-old in China faced yet another example of fate raining all over his incredibly poor family, he decided to step out rather than suffer a life of torment and misery.
Climbing over the railing of a pedestrian bridge, he prepared to jump. At which point a passing waitress named Liu Wenxiu decided to get involved. Despite having never seen the kid before, despite knowing nothing of his problems, she followed him to the railing and did the only thing she could: She listened.
She listened as this random 16-year-old described the pit his life had fallen into, she listened as he listed the endless problems tearing his family life to bits, and then she simply showed him her wrists.
As they stood there, surrounded by cops and gawping pedestrians, Liu told him the story behind her own attempted suicide—quietly, firmly, and without any contrivances. When she was done, she leaned forward, hugged the boy, and gave him a kiss. And the boy suddenly decided that maybe life was worth living after all.
All Liu had done was something no one else had ever thought to do: She’d given the kid her full attention and really listened. And that little slice of kindness was all it took to save his life.
8. The Suicide Reunion
In March 2005, 22-year-old Kevin Berthia climbed over the railings of the Golden Gate Bridge and prepared to jump. What happened next became the stuff of legend.
For over an hour, Berthia wavered on the edge as Highway Patrol Officer Kevin Briggs tried to talk him down. As the rush hour traffic swirled past them, the two held a quiet, intense conversation that culminated in Berthia climbing back onto the bridge.
At this point, most suicide stories usually end: The guy is safe, the hero gets applauded, and everyone tries their best to forget about the whole damn thing. But this is no ordinary story. Berthia never forgot how Briggs helped him that cold Friday morning.
And in 2013, when the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention decided to honor Briggs for his tireless efforts, Berthia was damn sure no random asshole was going to be presenting the award. Almost eight years to the day after Briggs saved his life, Berthia not only got to thank him in public, he got to introduce him to his family—including the two young kids he would never have had if Briggs hadn’t intervened.
7. Woman’s Best Friend
Earlier this year, a 63-year-old Frenchwoman decided she’d had enough. Taking a rifle out into her yard in the southern town of Sorgues, she fired off a couple of test shots before turning the gun on herself. Then she pulled the trigger.
Incredibly, the bullet missed her heart. It was incredible not because she was a terrible shot, or because it was a simple fluke, but because her dog leaped on the gun at the exact second she fired, saving her life. Somehow, the animal sensed not only what she was about to do, but exactly how it could stop her from doing it.
According to reports, the dog then waited with the injured woman until her husband came home and called the paramedics, refusing to leave her side until they loaded her in the ambulance.
In short, it was exactly the sort of touching, tearful scene that could end a Lassie story. Only a zillion times better because it really happened.
6. Anonymous Saves A Suicidal Girl
Late last year, 15-year-old Kylie Kylem was feeling suicidal.
Because adolescence is a horrible, horrible time, she felt unable to talk to her friends or parents and instead took to Twitter in search of sympathy. Unfortunately, her bullies happened to be online as well, and what followed was an exchange so depressing it’ll make you want to cry.
Instead of acting like human beings for once in their miserable lives, the bullies responded to Kylie’s tweets by encouraging her to kill herself. If you’ve ever been around a depressed person, you know this isn’t a good thing to do.
Kylie started tweeting about cutting herself and seemed on the verge of doing something awful when Anonymous and Rustle League, who apparently patrol Twitter looking out for this kind of thing, decided to step in.
What followed was a darkly gratifying exchange that saw Anonymous pull the bullies’ contact details and threaten to identify them to the police, their parents, their principal, and anyone in authority. After a whole lot of groveling, the bullies were eventually let off with a warning—on the condition that they apologize to Kylie.
And apologize they did, promising to look after their victim from then on until the end of time. Best of all, the offer was conditional on Kylie directly messaging the Anon guys to tell them she was okay.
Rather than take the opportunity for cold, cold revenge, she did exactly that, rising above the level of her bullies and looking awesome in the process.
5. The Suicide That Reunited A Family
When Hanns Jones stepped off the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in mid-2001, he had every reason for wanting to throw in the crappy hand life had dealt him. Recently kicked out by his girlfriend, his career was going nowhere and a decades-long search for his father had resulted in precisely nothing.
But on his way down, Jones had a realization. If he checked out now, his own son would suffer precisely the same Dad-shaped hole in his life as he had. So instead of giving up when he hit the water, he swam to safety.
This was despite suffering a collapsed lung, broken neck, shattered ribs, and burst spleen—all so he might see his kid again.
But that isn’t even the amazing bit. That came two weeks later, when Lynn-Marie Carty read about Jones’s suicide attempt online. Specifically, she read the bit about his missing father. And it just so happened that Lynn-Marie Carty was freaking amazing at finding missing people.
Within six days of reading Jones’s story, she had tracked down his absent father and put the two in contact. After literally decades of searching, Jones had finally found his missing dad—all because someone cared enough about a stranger’s misery to sacrifice a week of her life helping him.
4. The Angel Of The Gap
For 50 years, Don Ritchie was the guy with the most unusual hobby in Australia. When other men were learning to barbeque or boomerang or whatever it is Australians do all day, Ritchie sat at home, quietly looking out the window.
That might not sound so unusual, but Ritchie had a very specific purpose in mind. He and his wife lived at the top of a Sydney suicide hotspot. And Ritchie had made it his mission to stop as many jumpers as possible.
From 1964 to 2012, he watched over this stretch of cliff face, wandering down to anyone who looked upset and simply asking: “Can I help you in some way?”
Amazingly, this low-key approach seemed to work. When he died last year, Ritchie was credited with saving a minimum of 164 lives—an accolade usually reserved for war veterans and Superman. Again, that’s a minimum, some people estimate the number is much, much higher.
Either way, Ritchie’s combination of insane determination and calm patience saved hundreds of families from losing someone they loved.
3. Lifelong Friends
If there’s anything as ridiculously touching as the story of John Unger and his dog Schoep, we’ve yet to hear it.
About 19 years ago, Unger and his then-fiance adopted Schoep as a rescue dog. Good job they did, because when the pair broke up, it sent Unger to a very dark place.
According to his story, he was on the verge of suicide one night when Schoep managed to drag him back from the brink. Exactly how, he doesn’t say, but what’s important is that he felt he owed the dog his life. And nine years later, he returned the favor.
In 2012, Schoep got sick. With crippling arthritis spreading through his body, it began to look like it was only a matter of time before he had to be put down. Unger did everything he could for his friend, spending his paltry wage on painkillers and even carrying the dog into Lake Superior each evening, where the lapping water would ease his pain long enough for Schoep to get some sleep.
Then one day, he asked a photographer friend to take some pictures of what he thought were Schoep’s last moments. With a heavy heart, he posted them online—and watched the whole Internet explode. People across the world were so ridiculously touched by the story of the lifesaving dog that they flooded local veterinarian clinics with donations to be spent helping Schoep.
The dog got treatment for his illness and the pair managed to snatch a few more months of life together, giving death the finger for the second time.
2. Thousands Write To Save A Suicidal Boy
It’s a grim fact of life that some people who kill themselves do it at a depressingly young age. Earlier this year, it looked like Noah Brocklebank was going to be one of those people.
At the age of 12 he was being bullied at school and had started cutting his arms. Then one day he posted a picture of his slashed-up wrist on Instagram with this message: “Day of scheduled suicide, February 8th, 2013, my birthday.”
At this stage, the authorities intervened and took Noah into hospital. Looking for a way to convince her son that life was still worth living, his mother set up a Facebook page for friends and family, encouraging them to write to Noah. Then she left her home address and set the page to public.
As anyone who knows the internet will tell you, this is like asking a bully to punch you. By rights, Noah should have been deluged with messages from scumbags.
But instead, an amazing thing happened.
The Internet took one look at this depressed and angry boy and decided, “not today.” Over the course of a week, literally thousands of people turned off their computers, sat down, and wrote a letter to this kid they’d never met.
By the time of Noah’s scheduled suicide day, he’d received 7,000 letters basically telling him he was awesome. So yeah, turns out that sometimes even the Internet can get it together to do the right thing.
1. The Silent Heroes
All of these stories have been about specific people, or groups of people, who did the right thing when faced with the worst circumstances. This one won’t be.
Instead, it’s about anonymous, regular people—the ordinary faceless friends and strangers who make life worth living.
A while back, I came across this thread on Reddit. What started as someone idly wondering what suicides do on their last day quickly became a collection of some of the most heart-breaking tales you will ever read. Hundreds of near-suicides posted their stories of abuse, misery, and a brush with death. Some of them are heavy reading, but they all have one thing in common—the people.
Friends who saw the poster was feeling lost and offered them their time, family members who helped them through the dark days of depression, strangers who stood next to them on an empty bridge and offered to take them home. Stories of parents, sons, sisters, mothers who came so close but realized at the last moment there was someone out there who still loved them.
And I guess that’s what I’m trying to say with this whole article: There are always people who will miss you when you go, no matter how hopeless things might feel. There are always people willing to help, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.
And reading the stories of all those anonymous posters is perhaps the most touching way of finding that out.