Bridges of despair can become bridges of hope. The story of Kevin Hines is most illuminating. He was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder at the age of 17.
He felt alone and without hope.. When aged 19 he could feel nothing but intense emotional pain and after leaving a suicide note decided to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
In an article entitled, Hey kid are you O.K? -a story of suicide survived (Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 2013 vol 19, 292-294) he gives a deeply moving account of his survival from suicide.
As soon as he jumped off the bridge, in the 7-8 seconds it took to hit the water, he cried out to God saying, ‘God I don’t want to die ,please save me.’
In answer to his cry , a sea lion nudged him to the surface until the rescue boat arrived and his life was spared. Kevin now travels widely talking of his experiences and also emphasising the need for structure in our lives as a way of helping our mental health. He also says that if anyone had asked him before he jumped if he was O.K. then he probably would have told them the whole story and would not have jumped.
The bridge of despair became a bridge of hope.
Intense suicidal thoughts may be short – lived. Rescue teams on the Golden Gate Bridge have helped many at the point of suicide. A twenty five year survey showed that ninety percent of those who were saved by the teams never died by suicide. Rescue teams and barriers on bridges are certainly helpful.
Suicide is a big problem where I am writing from in Belfast, as I mentioned in my last article.
The work of Professor Patricia Casey (Psychiatrist from Dublin) shows that those who practise a religious faith have a lower rate of suicide.
So how does this work?
In reflecting on the Easter story we can remind ourselves of several things.
Firstly, in the death of Jesus Christ we can see that we are each very loved and very special, as He carries away the burden of our sin and proclaims the availability of forgiveness for us.
Secondly, in His resurrection we can see His power to give us new life, if we will receive Him. To truly receive Him into our lives is to enter true life. (Gospel of St. John chapte1 v12)
So the cross and the resurrection become a bridge of hope for our lives and a way of reconnecting our lives with God.
In my book, Mindful of the Light-practical help and spiritual hope for mental health, I discuss several mental health topics and how the Christian Faith can help us in these areas, as well as discussing the role of medication and other forms of treatment.
Bridges of despair can become bridges of hope.