By Steve “Stef” Stefanides
For many, this time of year can seem quite frightening. Loneliness, depression and mental illness can push people into a place none of us would welcome. For one individual this was the case at 3am on Friday morning. A man called the Collier County 911 dispatch to tell them he would be ending his life.
The individual’s cellphone registered his location near the south end of the S.S. Jolley Bridge on Marco Island. Thankfully for the man, his guardian angel would be close by in the presence of Officer Willem Hernandez of the Marco Island Police Department.
Hernandez received the call and proceeded across the bridge from the island in a very dense fog. As Hernandez reached the top of the bridge he could make out the silhouette of a subject running up the breakdown lane.
“I only had a moment to pick up the mike and radio dispatch that I had the subject in sight and gave my location. There wasn’t even time to put on my warning lights. I stopped and immediately exited the vehicle. That’s when I saw [him] vault over the handrails of the northbound lanes towards the river,” said Hernandez.
The individual had gone over the side of the bridge and was holding onto the utility pipes. The dash camera video below shows the harrowing encounter.
“I reached down and grabbed him by the wrist and attempted to reason with him in Spanish as he attempted to break loose from my grip. I just simply told him his life was important to me,” said Hernandez. The man seemed to respond to the words.
During this time Officers Angel Casabona and Jeff Stafford were speeding towards Hernandez to give aide in securing the subject and to back up Hernandez. Stafford was first to arrive and assisted Hernandez in hauling the man to safety. Subject was then remanded to a 72-hour Baker Act hold for evaluation at the David Lawrence Center in Naples.
“This is standard procedure for this type of subject to allow evaluation regarding whether he his release would pose a danger to himself or the general public,” said Chief Al Schettino of the Marco Police Department.
Holidays Not So Festive for All
Chief Schettino went on to explain the holidays are especially tough for those that are undergoing personal, financial or medical issues.
“Depression can affect individuals in numerous ways. It is why it is so important that we all stay aware of changes in the attitudes and actions of those around us,” said Schettino.
Some of those notable signs are:
- Little interest or pleasure doing things
- Feeling down or hopeless
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Constant feeling of tiredness
- Enduring sadness
- Loss of interest in all activities
- Irritability and isolation
- Low self-worth
- Reckless behavior
- Thinking about or vocalizing self-harm
Should you or a friend notice these symptoms with someone there are outlets to seek help. The National Suicide Hotline is 800-273-8255 or locally the David Lawrence Center offers assistance at 239-455-8500.
You could also call the Marco Island Police Department at 239-394-5050 and ask to speak to an officer who would be more than happy to assist. Your call is free, your thoughtful gesture might help avert a tragedy, before, during and after the holidays.