Editor’s note: This story deals with suicide and suicidal ideation. Proceed with your own mental health as a priority. If you feel you might be in danger of hurting yourself or someone else, you should call 9-1-1 or go to a hospital emergency department right away. Folks who are struggling can also call the provincial Crisis Centre of BC: 1 (800) 784-2433, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As you may have heard, in early January, a man was having a mental health crisis on the Alex Fraser Bridge.
The Delta Police Department wrote about the incident that they “received a report of an individual who was outside the safety rail.”
In both police and media jargon that means he was contemplating suicide.
The reason I’m not particularly sugarcoating the details of this man’s mental state is because of the response by some drivers and bystanders that had their routines delayed.
Further along in the news release, the police wrote that their efforts to help the man were interrupted by several distractions including drivers “‘rubber-necking’ to get a view, honking horns, yelling at the individual in crisis and even encouraging them to take action.”
One of my colleagues also told me that she saw videos of the man in distress on TikTok.
Despite these interruptions, the responders on the scene helped the man off the bridge. Nonetheless, the response from some members of the public was appalling.
There are many, many words that come to mind when I think about this behaviour, but getting fired is not on my to-do list today. For that reason, and that reason alone, I’ll say that this behaviour was absolutely deplorable, disgusting and reprehensible.
To even begin to think that your tardiness somehow outweighs a man’s life is so baffling and offensive that I cannot think of something more despicable. It’s downright shameful that we need a reminder, in no uncertain terms, that it’s inappropriate to tell someone to go ahead and die.
So often, when bad things happen, and people react irresponsibly, we typically retort: “Hey, put yourself in their shoes!” or “What if that was someone you knew and loved?”
But that is such a cop-out for this situation.
No one should ever need a reminder of what it means to express sympathy or empathy to another person. No one should need a finger wag then a reminder of what it means to be human.
And don’t get it twisted: just because this happened south of us doesn’t mean that these same sort of sentiments don’t happen right here in Squamish.
For those stuck in this situation, you, of course, have every right to be angry. You have every right to be scared. You have every right to be upset.
But, you cannot encourage a man to die, so you aren’t late for dinner.
People who are struggling are legitimately trying, just like you and me, to hang onto every morsel of their humanity, to make ends meet, and to enjoy the immensely minimal and precious time that any of us might have.
So I am begging you not to blame these people. I beg you to treat everyone with the dignity they deserve, even in their lowest moments.
And if you need to place blame to feel better, then blame the things that put them there. Blame the government. Blame the poisoned drugs. Blame institutional racism. Blame the police.
Hell, you can even blame me, the media, which has perpetuated its own share of racism and discrimination. I do not pretend to be in a profession that has stood atop a golden pedestal throughout the years.
But you cannot blame the distressed people.