Two schoolboys have today been hailed as heroes by their families and mental health leaders after talking round a man who was considering killing himself by jumping from Wearmouth Bridge.
Pals Ellis Coupland and Kian Henderson were making their way home from Sunderland city centre on Tuesday evening when they spotted the distressed man on the wrong side of the bridge’s railings.
The quick-thinking pair, en route back from a trip to the cinema and planning to stop off at the McDonald’s in Roker, stopped and chatted to the person for about 10 minutes, persuading him not to commit suicide.
He eventually agreed to climb back over and was taken care of by members of the emergency services.
The modest lads, who both go to Whitburn Church of England Academy and are currently taking their GCSEs, say they only did what any other right-minded person would do.
“We were just walking back home when Kian pointed out that there was this man on the bridge,” said Ellis, 16, of Whitburn.
All we were hoping was that he wouldn’t go through with it, and thankfully he didn’t.Ellis Coupland
“We went over and said ‘do you fancy coming over?’ and ‘do you need to talk to someone?’”
After telling the teenagers about some of his personal problems, the man eventually got back onto the path next to the bridge before being collected by police officers.
“It was about 10 minutes of us talking to him before he decided to climb back over,” added Ellis.
“A friend rang him saying that he’d called the police and they were going to come for him.
“All we were hoping was that he wouldn’t go through with it, and thankfully he didn’t.
“What we did was the right thing to do.”
Kian, 16, also of Whitburn, said: “I’m glad we managed to talk him round and that he’s now being looked after.
“He said to the police when they came that 10 people had walked past during the time he was on the bridge and hadn’t done anything, and that he was grateful to us for taking time to talk to him.
“Then he shook our hands.”
The boys spotted the man on the bridge at about 11.10pm on Tuesday.
Ellis’s proud mum Alex Brown said: “I think the lads deserve some kind of recognition for what they did as it wasn’t something they had to get involved in.
“They said about 10 other people walked past the man and didn’t stop at all.
“The lad they talked to said thanks to both of them for helping. “It was a really brave thing to do.”
Dorothy Gardiner, project manager at Sunderland Mind mental health charity, said: “With the lads being so young I think they did a grand job in talking to this gentleman and persuading him not to jump. “There is suicide prevention help within the city but I believe more needs to be done to help those need it.
“Perhaps putting the phone number of of the mental health crisis team on the bridge would improve things.”
A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police said: “At 11.30pm on Tuesday, May 31, police received a report of concern for a man who was on the wrong side of the railings on Wearmouth Bridge.
“The man was subsequently brough to the right side of the railings.”
Anyone thinking of self-harming can call Sunderland Samaritans for support and advice on 567 7177.