Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Bridge

A documentary depicting suicides off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, by Eric Steele.

It opened in London this weekend, and not to rave reviews. I saw an interview with Eric Steele, actually a couple of them. He strikes me as very sympathetic and sincere, yet not at all voyeuristic or exploitative, but rather serious about revealing the desperation of persons seeking the final solution in their lives. In the process of filming, he and his crew did everything they could to prevent the suicides he filmed, and were indeed successful a few times.

I wonder what it is about the bridge that attracts people from around the world to end their lives there? It is beautiful, but kind of cold, yet it remains the most popular place in the world to end one's life.

I've known people who have ended their lives. I never thought they were particularly neurotic or mentally ill. They just seemed to have no other alternative. One fellow struggled with alcoholism and a dead end career. Coming from a wealthy family, I know he felt as if he had failed in life. Of course he must have suffered from depression in order to kill himself, but he isolated himself, and no one could have helped him - he wouldn't let anyone in. Evidently, life simply lost its purpose, its meaning for him.

Does anyone remember the famous French couture-model/actress, Capucine? She played opposite Peter Sellers in "Pink Panther" portraying the wife of Inspector Clousseau. Several years ago she threw herself out of a Parisian hotel window, killing herself. Audrey Hepburn said in an interview about her friend that it was because she couldn't face growing old. - that sounds depressing.

For years we have hidden the idea of suicide, never is it mentioned in the obituaries, although you can usually tell who killed themselves when it reads, "died unexpectedly" - obit-code for suicide. We've heard more about it in the last few years due to the increase of teenage suicides, yet it still is rarely discussed except to say things like "what a waste" or, "what a stupid thing to do - why didn't they ask for help?"

To answer that I would be willing to guess that the suicide thought their life was a waste as well, while they probably did try to reach out for help at various times in their life. I also think that they would agree, if we could hear them speak, that it was definitely a stupid thing to do, adding, that they would have preferred not being filmed in the act - it's never graceful - and that is meant to be a double entendre.

Nevertheless, I believe the film is an important work in the study of suicide - although I have not viewed it, only clips. I think we need to care about the subject - more precisely, the people.


  1. Such sad, but thoughtful, posts tonight...

  2. Anonymous5:20 AM

    One of my son's friends just committed suicide two weeks ago. He had been in and out of treatment for alcohol and drugs and in fact--just out again. He was under the influence when he did it. My son was shaken to the core and has been spending a lot of time with his younger brother who had found him, giving him one of his guitars and showing him some things--spending time with him.
    His friend was very happy go lucky and my son is shocked this happened. I have told him that we never know what another is really feeling or going through and we simply can't know unless they reveal it to us.
    I have told him to pray for him without ceasing...everytime he thinks of him. To put his grief and love to use for his friend and not forget him or set the experience of this aside and feel hopeless.
    What is wonderful as a catholic is the Divine Mercy message. The Protestant minister told the mother her son is in heaven now and to just go son was incensed. To be able to let my son know that only God would know and only God has the power to judge a soul and that suicide isn't the unforgivable sin was important. I could tell him that St Faustina has told us Jesus comes to us at our death and asks us three times to choose Him--is the hope that helps not a flippant "he is in heaven"...that our prayers are out of time and place and so is our love, is much better than making a statment we cannot back up.
    May he be in God's hands and in God's mercy forever.

  3. As churches and parents continue to neglect the education of children

    As religion beomes less visible in schools, government and society

    As atheism and anti-religious movements continue their assaults on the presence of religion everywhere

    As advocates for euthanasia keep up their drum beats

    As, accordingly, religion ceases to have significance in the lives of many:

    Suicide no doubt will increase.

  4. Therese, my deepest sympathy for your son's friend, and thoughts and prayers for your son. You are correct to pray for the boy who killed himself, we never know if God anticipated these prayers for the boy's salvation.

    I imagine most suicides have reached the bottom of their depression and are not as responsible for their actions as one would think. We may only hope and pray - and always love, hopefully, letting the depressed and mentally ill know that they are loved. Being there for them and listenig to them, without preaching or trying to change them so much as to let them know they are valued and their existence is important. My favorite Guests in the Store are the mentally ill or mentally challenged. They are such a gift to humanity.

    So many families reject the mentally ill, or try so desperately to change them, when they simply need acceptance and validation.

    I'll have to post about Jean Vanier and l'Arche soon. He turns everything upside down in regards to the mentally ill - and there is much to learn for all of us in his spirituality.

    The russian Church understands their value as no other, many of their Saints were "Holy Fools" who were most likely mentally ill in some sense.

  5. I nearly committed suicide when I was 15. I had a plan, I told no one, and since I had learned in school about the "signs", I made sure to avoid every single one. I was an A student, I was involved in my classes and extracurricular activities, and my parish in music ministry and the youth group. But my family life was a mess (divorce, bipolar mother, etc.), and I honestly believed my life had no value. I had prayed, read psalms, begged God, but to no apparent answer...and I really thought that no one would miss me and the world would be a better place without me. As though I had that much influence! Through God's grace I am here (I think it might be time to blog about this), but I can assure you, people who think this way are not in their right minds. In order for a sin (such as suicide/ self-murder) to be mortal, one must be fully aware. Very few suicidal persons are really aware of anything outside of is the nature of their desease, or demonic oppression, or what have you. The Lord will be merciful with these souls for they are not really willfully turning away from Him, and He in his mercy always recognizes the afflicted.

  6. Anonymous6:55 AM

    i am so disappointed that a film like this could possibly be created. i lost a cousin to suicide. he jumped off a bridge. i would be furious to know that someone was filming it, passively watching the most tragic moment of his (and my family's) life. what has entertainment come to these days?

  7. I'm sorry you have lost a cousin.

    Though the film is controversia, it is definitely not entertainment, nor did Eric Steele intend it to be. It was produced, as most documentaries are, to educate and bring greater awareness to the public, not to mention city and county officials in San Francisco. Through this film, many more persons may be helped. Perhaps, through this film and the controversy surrounding it, those who took their own lives may finally be heard and maybe understood.

    In the United States we seem to be afraid to look at anything concerning the reality of any type of death - except that which is passed off as entertainment. The cover up of suicide may be likened to the prohibition against showing the graphic images associated with aborted babies, the process and the results.


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