Tonight I took the long way home.
After a night out celebrating recent successes with a good friend and walking her home, I decided to take the long way home. It was past midnight and the trains were running infrequently so I bundled up for the long walk to my apartment downtown. If you know me well, you know that these last few months I haven’t been doing too well and so I thought I’d take some time to walk and reflect on all the things happening in my life lately.
As I was crossing the High Level Bridge, which is famous for being “where people who live in Edmonton go when we’re finally ready to kill ourselves” (from: http://goo.gl/gyaXli), I noticed a young guy leaning against the railing midway across the nearly 800m span. As I approached him I noticed he was crying and he looked up as I came closer. I asked him how he was and what was going on. He told me about his recent failing of a midterm and falling out with his family. He told me he couldn’t stand the shame of who he was anymore and he wanted to end his life tonight. I told him I had been there before too and that I was a living testament to the power of reaching out and getting help as I had been forced to withdraw from school just a year earlier for feeling the same things he was. I admitted that I wasn’t doing too well at the moment either and I’d like to talk to him more in a safer location.
He agreed to come off the bridge for me and we sat down over McDonald’s for what seemed like an hour. I told him about my story and where I was at. I told him about Project Pilgrim and how just over the last few weeks by me talking about mental health I had received dozens of messages of support and that him and I were really not alone in our feelings. He said he had actually seen my project somewhere online but felt like no one would understand really how he was feeling if he talked about it. I disagreed. I showed him my website and all the photos I had taken for my project and he was blown away by how many “regular” looking people seemed to have been in his exact shoes at some point in their lives.
In the end, I brought him into emergency at the University Hospital and they took him in from there. I agreed to meet with him later next week.
I don’t know why I’m posting about this story but I felt a particular draw to write about it and share it with all of you tonight. Mental health is something that is absolutely everywhere around us and it is so important for us to keep our eyes opened to those few who may be really struggling. I am just one person who happened to be in the right place at the right time, but I truly believe that by reaching out to the people around us, we can all create a healthy support system that we’ll all be able to thrive in.
These last few weeks I’ve had a dozen or so friends who have been that support system for me and I am eternally grateful for them. Without them, I would be in a much worse place than I am right now and I would never of been able to step in on this guy’s journey tonight.
Thank you to those friends for being their for me. I can only hope I can repay the favour one day.