LORAIN, Ohio — In less than a minute, in the pouring rain on the Charles Berry Bridge in Lorain, Ohio, State Trooper Michael Wearsch deployed hours of training to defuse a potentially deadly situation — a man perched on the other side of the railing, apparently contemplating suicide.
“You don’t want to get excited or anything. You want to stay calm, talk to the guy and just figure out what’s going on,” said Wearsch.
As he asked questions about why the young man was standing on the edge of the bridge, dashcam video obtained by WEWS showed Wearsch slowly inching closer to the man.
“He was on a railing. It was just a railing about 4 feet high and he was on the other side of it. Hands on the railing, feet on the bridge, and his body kind of hanging over the water. A lot of freighters come through there, so it’s a big channel,” said Wearsch.
Once he was within reach, Wearsch made his move.
“I just walked up, was able to put a hand on him and put an arm around him,” said Wearsch.
And then, people passing by quickly joined in the rescue effort.
“As soon as I put arms on him I had about five other people rushing up to help and we were all able to grab him, tell him everything was going to be okay and pull him over the railing,” said Wearsch.
The emotional moment is one all Ohio state troopers are trained to handle.
Each one goes through 16 hours of exercises on de-escalation techniques.
“The ADAHMS [Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services] Board offers it to all police departments in Cuyahoga County for free. That’s how important it is,” said Beth Zietlow-DeJesus with the ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County.
The organization also offers suicide prevention classes for the community at no cost.
“You may not know that you’re going to need that information but having that tool in your pocket could save somebody’s life,” said Zietlow-DeJesus.
Trooper Wearsch is grateful for the guidance.
"There’s so much room for it to go very, very badly,” said Wearsch.
He’s also appreciative of those who stepped in without hesitation to help a stranger in need.
“It took five guys to be able to do that and I was very grateful to have them there because it made all the difference in that man’s life,” said Wearsch.
In one young man's darkest moment, their actions were a reminder that he is not alone.
“It was just so heartwarming that the community can come together like that,” said Wearsch.
Experts encourage all of us to learn about suicide, so we too can help.
Know the risks and warning signs, which include the loss of a job or a loved one, financial strain, struggles with long-term addiction and changes in behavior.
And don't be afraid to ask someone directly if they are thinking about suicide. If you ask that question, you need to be prepared to listen without judgment.
Then call your local crisis number to connect them to care and make sure the person agrees to stay safe until they can access help.
“And afterwards, follow up. If your friends broke their leg, you’d call to see how they’re doing,” said Zietlow-DeJesus.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide hotline at 800-273-8255, someone will pick up 24 hours a day.
This story was originally published by Mike Brookbank at WEWS.