Small acts of kindness really can change lives, and few people know that better than 17-year-old Jamie Harrington. The Dublin teen has become a viral sensation after Humans of Dublin — a photography project similar to Humans of New York — shared his photo along with a touching story about the time he saved a stranger’s life.
Harrington says he was walking to the store to buy Gatorade one afternoon when he noticed a man in his 30s sitting on the ledge of a bridge. Concerned that something was seriously amiss, Harrington stopped to make sure the man was all right. “I stopped to ask if he was OK, but I knew from the look in his eyes he wasn’t,” he recalls.
Harrington pleaded with the stranger until he agreed to move away from the ledge and sit down on the steps. After that, Harrington says he spent 45 minutes just sitting there on the sidewalk and talking with the man about what was happening in his life and how he was feeling. Harrington calmed the man and eventually called him an ambulance. Then he asked for his phone number so the two could keep in touch. That’s where the heartwarming story becomes even more incredible.
Three months ago, Harrington received a text message from the man, saying that his wife is expecting a baby and they plan to name the child after Jamie. “He said that in that moment that I approached him, he was just about to jump, and those few words saved his life,” Harrington explained. “They’re still ringing in his head every day. ‘Are you OK?’ I can’t really imagine how those few words could save his life, but he told me, ‘Imagine if nobody ever asked you those words…'”
There are a lot of things you can do if you suspect someone is contemplating suicide. You can call emergency services, get help from a trained professional like a therapist or psychiatrist or even call a help line, like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-27-TALK). The first step, though — and the one we most often forget about — is simply talking to the person in crisis.
On its website, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline stresses that the most helpful thing you can do for someone who is contemplating suicide is to simply ask them about what they’re feeling, while remaining supportive and nonjudgmental. You can encourage them to seek help, or you can take action yourself if they aren’t prepared to get help on their own, but it all begins with a simple dialogue like the one Jamie Harrington had with the man on the bridge.
We won’t always know when someone is hurting or in trouble, but there’s little stopping us from taking the time to be kind and supportive to the people around us. Despite the many ways to connect in our modern world, so many of us are still lonely or struggling to find support. It’s difficult to reach out even in the best of times, but when you’re depressed or going through a hard time, it can be downright impossible. Those are the moments when a smile or a friendly conversation could end up meaning the most.
We’re all in this together, and each of us has the power to impact the world in unimaginable ways. A man is alive and a new little person is coming into the world because Jamie Harrington stopped to talk to a stranger on his way to buy Gatorade. Imagine the difference we could make if each of us were equally as willing to lend a helping hand.
If you suspect someone might be considering suicide, or you have struggled with those thoughts yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).