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The Suicide Catcher
January 26, 2011 8:10 AM   Subscribe

Chen Sah is an unlikely good samaritan, a gruff man who cajoles would be jumpers into the Yangtze River to rethink their plans of suicide.

Chen was also profiled on This American Life.
posted by reenum (18 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
"... the bridge remained butterless ..."
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 8:39 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


was also in Mental Floss last issue
posted by edgeways at 8:39 AM on January 26, 2011


...a gruff man who cajoles would be jumpers into the Yangtze River...

holy shit

...to rethink their plans of suicide

Oh! Well! Okay then.
posted by Shepherd at 8:50 AM on January 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


Reminds me very much of the friendly park-patrolling scientist in this video from a suicide thread last year.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 8:58 AM on January 26, 2011


Nanjing has had its problems, beautiful city though in parts. I look forward to reading this article, thanks.
posted by stbalbach at 9:19 AM on January 26, 2011


Also reminds me of this gentlemen who tries to convince would-be jumpers to "come over and have a cup of tea", and was recently named "Australia's Local Hero".
posted by yeoz at 9:40 AM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


"We tried employing guards at both ends," said a government official, "and we put up special fences and notices asking people not to commit suicide here. None of it worked—and so now we have put butter over the bridge, and it has worked very well."

Signs asking people not to commit suicide here? Weird and creepy, though perhaps a loss in translation.

And the writing in the article is strange, too. Why ponder in text and try to figure out the mentality behind such suicides when you could confer with people who study suicide. Also, why the reference to the "highly stylized classical Japanese dance-drama" that is Kabuki when writing about a Chinese man?

Mr. Chen's blog is here, auto-translated here (found via 8 Asians blog).

Also: Australia's local hero, Don Ritchie previously.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:57 AM on January 26, 2011


Signs asking people not to commit suicide here? Weird and creepy, though perhaps a loss in translation.

I think I read somewhere once about the Japanese governement specifically urging people not to commit suicide by train (without mentioning the reason) because it caused a ton of inconvenience and cost to get everything running again.

In a way they sort of have a point, they incur a lot of damage for someone they can't even fine later. Probably not the most appropriate thing to say, but then what is?
posted by Senza Volto at 10:51 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The article was way too long - Mr. Chen is badass!
posted by Wong Fei-hung at 11:15 AM on January 26, 2011


The bridge from which they are jumping is the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge. From wiki:

After the withdrawal of Soviet experts following the Sino-Soviet Split, China was thought to be unable to build a bridge on such a scale by themselves, without outside support. The project was undertaken to prove that Chinese engineers were able to overcome this perceived lack of ability.

It includes a bus stop and a museum. On the western side of the bridge, a new city is currently being developed.

posted by ianhattwick at 11:40 AM on January 26, 2011


For some reason I am reminded of Ian Fleming's novel "You Only Live Twice".
posted by I-baLL at 1:44 PM on January 26, 2011


Stupid question I have always wondered about. When someone jumps off a bridge is it the fall that kills them or is it the drowning?
posted by puny human at 3:31 PM on January 26, 2011


Interesting to see the link to Chen's blog -- without it, I would have been strongly tempted to assume that the article was bullshit. It may just be the author's writing and evident lack of any kind of knowledge about China, but there's so much in there that rings false. Down even to the bit about the hat saying "they spy on you" -- dude's wearing a regular Yankee's cap!
posted by bokane at 7:05 PM on January 26, 2011


It depends on how far they fall. They faster they're going, the less splash and more splat-ash. Mythbusters did a bunch of different tests on things involving either people falling into or firing bullets into water (extreme velocity example).

The slower projectiles, black powder ball rounds (IIRC), either hit or nearly hit the bottom of the pool. The modern and comparatively obscene .50 cal sniper rifle's round completely disintegrated within inches of the surface.

(IANAPhysicist).
posted by Decimask at 7:06 PM on January 26, 2011


I have a special place in my hearth for gruff people that nonetheless go out of their way to help others.
posted by Harald74 at 11:48 PM on January 26, 2011


I have a special place in my hearth for gruff people that nonetheless go out of their way to help others.

The compassion, it burns!
posted by Marla Singer at 6:00 AM on January 27, 2011


Yeah, yeah, I'm not from around here...
posted by Harald74 at 4:03 AM on January 28, 2011


I find that the combination of
No matter what declivities I'd found in my own life, I'd always thought of suicide as something occurring over a divide, in the land of irrevocable people, when evidence suggested again and again—sweet Mr. Shi, right here in front of me!—that wasn't the case at all.
followed by
There are always two countercurrents running through the brain of someone contemplating suicide
makes me cranky. Dear author, you've already made it clear you don't really understand suicidality, so spare me the authoritative-sounding statements about what's going on in the mind of somebody who's suicidal.

I really think that unless a person has experienced it for themself, it's impossible to really understand what being suicidal is like. Hell, when I'm not down in the Pit of Despair I don't understand it myself. Thinking about it becomes like reading an autobiography and trying to imagine myself as the main character. But when you're in it, it seems like there's no hope of escaping.
posted by Lexica at 5:30 PM on January 28, 2011


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