Thoughts on desperation, joy and the Itchen Bridge – first published 21 June 2014

Midsummer 2014 and a rather disturbing comment was waiting in my morning inbox. It was in response to my post about the lure of the Itchen Bridge and the content was graphic, not really breakfast reading. Coming across it again I was tempted not to republish, not all my old posts make the cut after all, but something about it haunted me. In the end, I felt it was worth resharing. 

21 June 2014

Today I was going to tell you about my Sunday walk. Pictures had been edited, text written and all I had to do was proof read (seriously I do proof read, just not that well at times) and press post. Something happened today though to change my plans. By now you will have realised that plans are something I occasionally make just so other things can come along and change them.

Most mornings when I’m sipping my early morning cocoa I have a quick look at any comments I’ve received. Sometimes they make me smile, sometimes they have me checking Google to find further information, other times I have to think hard about a reply. Never before have I read a comment that’s actually shocked me. Today was a first. This was the comment…

“I was cruising home yesterday with my partner in our small boat when I noticed a splash under the Itchen bridge. To our horror a man had jumped/fallen from the bridge. When we first saw the motionless, semi submerged body I was sure he was dead. I got in the water and managed to drag him onto the swim platform of our boat. After a couple of seconds he started gurgling, he didn’t regain consciousness but had a pulse. People on the bridge were dialling 999 and the harbour master’s boat quickly arrived which we followed to a berth where an ambulance crew were waiting. I believe he is still critical but responding to treatment at the hospital. What amazed me was the extent of bruising covering the man’s body as a result of hitting the water. Water becomes very hard when you hit it at such speed. I hope he didn’t mean to kill himself and that he recovers and lives a full life. RIP to the poor young man who was not so lucky a couple of days before.”

This haunting and articulate account had me wondering once again what would drive a person to such a desperate act? Generally I’m a happy person, I see the good in most things but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had dark moments. The black pit of depression has had me in its grasp in the past so I know what a dark and dangerous place it can be. There have been times when I couldn’t see a way out and life didn’t seem worth living. It is a long, difficult climb to get back from there to here. Even so, the thought of taking that walk to the middle of the bridge, standing on the parapet and plunging to the water seems too terrible an alternative.

What of the poor man in his boat, cruising happily along the river on a sunny day? How will he ever wipe that memory from his mind? The police officers, the harbour master, the ambulance crew and the doctors and nurses who have to deal with such events cannot be unscathed by the experience either. What exactly is the lure of the Itchen Bridge?

Disturbingly, when I checked the news, there was no mention of this second suicide attempt. It is almost as if it doesn’t matter how many people jump as long as they don’t disrupt the traffic when they do it. What kind of society do we live in when a human life is less important that a traffic jam or being late for work?

We live in a very beautiful world. Sadly, the way we live in this modern world doesn’t always allow us to appreciate the wonders all around us. Human beings are not designed to fill every single moment with work, the quest for material possessions and endless slavery to gadgets. Our bodies are programmed to be active, to hunt for our food and spend time staring into space just thinking and enjoying the sky, the flowers and our fellow humans.

The society we have built is filled with stress, deadlines to meet, worries about money, work, having the latest clothes/car/phone that we can become enslaved to. We fill our heads with worries about fitting in or attaining perfection based on airbrushed photographs in magazines. Our flight or fight response is on overdrive all the time, not just when a predator is chasing us or a meal has to be caught. We no longer stare into the flames of the fire, instead we stare at the box in the corner or the tablet on our lap and fill our heads with meaningless rubbish when we should have time to think. Is it any wonder then that some people crack under the pressure?

All day I couldn’t get the thought of those poor young men out of my head. I made a point of looking at all the beauty around me today. I took pictures to remind me just how much there is to live for and just how lucky I am to see it. It isn’t always easy to find something to make you smile. At times you have to really look. Those fleeting moments may only banish the demons for a second or two but maybe we should all try a little harder to see them and to share the joy. A little smile and a good morning to those we meet as we stumble through our busy days could be the thing that makes all the difference. Maybe, just maybe, if we did that there would be fewer people taking that lonely walk.

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Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

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