Saturday, April 14, 2012

Heels over the edge

Ningxia man stands on the corner of a building for an hour, then gets rescued as he attempts to jump.
By Kevin
He stood with his heels hanging over the edge of the roof for more than an hour before jumping.

The young man, presumably a Ningxia University student, had sat down on the corner of the rooftop across from ours. He appeared to be trying to decide whether or not his grief was enough to propel him off of the five-story building. As rescue worker approached from one side, he became agitated and pushed off of the corner of the building. The rooftop rescue worker sprang to action and grabbed his arm a split second before he could complete his fall.

Heels hang over the corner of the five-story building.
A crowd of hundreds of teachers, students and children, which had gathered below, shrieked and ran towards the edge of the building. When they saw that the man had been hoisted back onto the roof, many cheered. The man had been saved.

It was the first time I'd witnessed a suicide attempt. I pray that it is my last, but recent statistics aren't very promising.

On average, someone in China attempts suicide every two minutes, according to China's Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, China's suicide rate is 22.23 people out of every 100,000, giving China one of the highest per capita rates of suicide in the world. It's also the biggest killer of people ages 15-34. In this nation of 1.3 billion people, about 2 million attempt suicide every year and 287,000 people kill themselves. Pressure to provide for aging parents, poor job prospects, broken relationships, failure and loss of face often lead people to despair.

We went outside a little before 5 p.m. We were planning to take advantage of the beautiful afternoon and bike over to buy her some new shoes in a nearby marketplace before grabbing some dinner. The plan changed when we saw a crowd gathered outside our building, gazing up at a man standing on the edge of the rooftop.

The shoes could wait. We quickly alerted our friends and teachers who live on campus and asked them to join us in prayer.

Police had just begun trying to clear the area. The first firetruck arrived a few minutes later, but the firefighters did little more than mull  about near the foot of the building.Twenty  minutes later, a firetruck carrying a giant inflatable cushion arrived. We held our breath during the 10 minutes it took them to set it up, praying that he wouldn't feel rushed to jump right away. As the air bag inflated, he moved along the edge of the roof to a place where he could avoid it if he jumped. He turned and stared out at the crowd. His hunched shoulders carrying the look of defeat.
Looking down from the top of a five-story apartment building

We still couldn't see any rescue workers on the roof, but he turned and looked like he was talking to somebody. The gates were locked. Nobody was going to be allowed on or off this area of campus. The crowd gathered. Children continued playing. Students smiled and giggled nervously. Elderly people wondered what had sent him to this point of despair. For the first time I spotted a few rescue workers on the roof, trying to persuade him to come down.

About 45 minutes after we arrived, he sat down on the edge. It seemed like a good sign. Better than standing on the corner with his feet over the edge, at least. Finally 50 minutes after our arrival, an ambulance from Ningxia People's Hospital arrived. Apparently rescuers wanted to bring him to the best hospital hospital halfway across town if he survived the fall, rather than the one just down the street (which may or may not have ambulances of its own).

A crowd gathers to see if the man jumps from the rooftop.
Just after the rescuer caught him, we met a student who told us that just last week, another Ning da student jumped off a building on another campus. She survived, but is completely paralyzed. I imagined his fate might have been the same had he completed his jump. Since it was at the corner of the building, he may have missed the landing pad.

After he was rescued, I couldn't help thinking about what a difficult road the man faces now. Not only will he have to deal with the consequences of dealing with his pain and the fact that he ultimately jumped, but now he'll face the likelihood that people will shun him and his family because of the huge loss of face that comes with such a public spectacle. 


Candy said...

So very, very sad. Praying that Life will come from this.

Mallary said...

Seeing the photos makes it even more disturbing.