Talking Down the Suicidal
When being super isn't enough to save a life.
"I wish you would step back from that ledge my friend, You could cut ties with all the lies, that you've been living in, And if you do not want to see me again, I would understand."
This is when someone is Driven to Suicide
and someone else who is aware of their plans decides to actively stop them... by talking them down. Distinct from Interrupted Suicide
, but sometimes part of one. If Bob has not gotten the opportunity to interrupt Alice's suicide attempt to request that she not kill herself, maybe she's called him on the phone to say goodbye and he's decided to talk her out of doing the deed rather than go along with her goodbyes. Maybe Bob has told Alice that he plans to kill himself several hours later and Alice, instead of immediately calling 911, is going to take a direct approach towards saving Bob's life. To sum it up, someone has decided, for one or more reasons, that they want to take their own life and someone else has decided to actively confront them and say to them, "Please don't kill yourself."
There are multiple reasons why someone might decide to take this approach instead of immediately calling for emergency help. The most obvious reason for doing this is because of this trope's similar effect to a Care Bear Stare
. Even if your life is saved by your being forcefully stopped from killing yourself when you're suicidal, it's nothing like having someone telling you to not do it because they actually care
whether you live or die. Also, having only one person or a small group of people (especially if they are close to the person they are doing this to) talk down one person who is about to kill themselves is better for building up emotional tension and drama than having a large emergency team do this. Maybe the Talker wants to spare the Suicidal the embarrassment of having the police come over to do it, or else wants the Suicidal to get help, but wants to minimize the chances of having them being taken off to a mental hospital.
Believe it or not, this is actually one of the best ways to deal with someone who you know to be suicidal
, especially because calling police can actually get a suicidal, mentally ill, or otherwise bizarrely behaving person killed
, and police calls, due to that risk, should only be done as a very last resort.
However, you should do the best you can to make it impossible for the person you're dealing with to immediately harm themselves should you actually try this at home. Plus, it's actually best to avoid
telling them that they "have so much to live for
" or they are "selfish or are taking the easy way out
." You don't have to go all out and plead with them. Just being there for them to talk to, listening to them, and encouraging them to talk to others can make all the difference. If you or someone you know feels this way, there are numbers you can call
Compare to The Precarious Ledge
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Anime & Manga
- Happens in Welcome to the N.H.K., when Misaki (with others help) convinces an entire suicide club (which Satou joined) to abort their plans.
- Also happens again near the end, when Satou talks Misaki down from jumping off a cliff. Subverted when he then jumps himself.
- In Natsuneko's manga Rooftop Miracle, two girls independently attempt suicide but end up talking each other out of it.
- In Katekyo Hitman Reborn! in the early chapters of the manga Yamamoto almost commits suicide. This was due to some bad advice that he broke his arm over, and he thought that his career as a baseball player was over. So he moseyed on over to the edge of the school rooftop and prepared to jump, and he was dead serious about it. With an audience of students trying to cajole him out of it, the only voice he listened to was Tsuna's. He ended up falling due to bad construction of a gate but Tsuna saves him. After that, he and Tsuna become good friends and he joins Tsuna's mafia family.
- Kyoukai no Kanata starts with Akihito spotting Mirai on the edge of the school roof, seemingly about to jump off, and dashing up to talk her out of it (read: rant about how much he loves glasses). Could be a subversion as it's unknown whether she actually intended to jump off, but in the end she comes away from the ledge...and then stabs Akihito. Luckily for him, he's immortal.
- Yami No Matsuei: At one point, Tsuzuki tries to commit suicide again thanks to Muraki, and Hisoka hugs him and begs him to not do so.
- In Natsuneko's one-shot manga Rooftop Miracle, two girls independently try to commit a suicide by jumping off a tall building, but end up talking each other out of it.
- Parodied by Improv Everywhere. Police, friends, and a wife all gather to talk down a man . . . off a four-foot ledge.
- Otto, in one of his occasional self-deprecating jokes, recounted how he was about to jump to his death and a priest was supposed to talk him out of it … but after the priest recognized Otto, he encouraged him instead.
- Fantastic Four: Reed talks down a lonely, suicidal man with terminal cancer by promising that he'll be there to save him from Dying Alone. He keeps his promise.
- Superman pulls this off in the first issue of the "Grounded" storyline.
- Men In Black. After Edwards (later Agent J) corners the Cephalapoid assassin atop a building, the assassin starts backing up toward the edge. Edwards pleads with him not to, but the Cephalopoid allows himself to fall back and down to his death.
- Clarence's mission in It's a Wonderful Life is a particularly drawn-out, indirect, and yet extremely direct version of this. In a bid to earn his wings, Clarence is supposed to prevent George Bailey from committing suicide. To do this, Clarence does everything he can to show George what a positive force he has been in the lives of his friends and family members, and yet the closest he comes to straight-out pleading with George to not kill himself is when he says, "You see George, you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it away?" after George has already wished himself out of existence.
- In Titanic Jack convinces Rose not to jump off the titular ship into the icy waters below.
- Milk shows the eponymous character, Harvey Milk, talking a wheelchair-using gay teenager out of killing himself.
- Accidental Hero: At the climax John is on a ledge and preparing to jump but Bernie goes out on the ledge and talks him down. Naturally (given the plot of the film) the media think that John talked Bernie down, not the other way around.
- Meet John Doe: A newspaper reporter writes that a homeless man has told her that he will kill himself at midnight New Year's Day to protest society, then she hires a man to play the part. After their arrangement is exposed by a corrupt businessman worried about the effectiveness of their crusade, he decides to actually do it; she talks him down.
- Inverted in Canadian Bacon, with John Candy and Rhea Pearlman openly encouraging folks to jump off Niagara Falls to collect a reward on washed-up bodies.
- The first Lethal Weapon movie does involves this, which turns out to be an inversion. Riggs is spectacularly bad about it. He starts out with the sympathetic angle, smoking a cigarette with the would-be-jumper, then he handcuffs them together, and then Riggs jumps, taking the would-be jumper with him, much to the alarm and dismay of the jumper who cusses him out and calls him crazy after the fact. There was an airbag to break their fall, however, brought in while Riggs was distracting the suicidal person.
- In Yes-Man, the main character sings a man off a ledge with the song "Jumper", quoted above. At one point, he forgets the words, and the suicidal guy fills in for him.
- Happens twice to Dirty Harry Callahan. The first is a jumper Callahan knocks out while talking to him about having to fill out the paperwork. The second is a man wanting to set himself on fire in front of reporters. The reporter refuses to film the second man which leads to the attempt anyway.
- In Pay It Forward, a woman is about to jump from a bridge but is eventually being talked out off it by a man passing by.
- Man On A Ledge has an interesting twist. A disgraced ex-cop threatens to jump from a hotel window, and much of the movie consists of a police negotiator trying to talk him down. Turns out it's really just a cover to keep the police and public distracted while his brother attempts a heist in the building next door in order to prove his innocence. In the end, he spots the bad guy on the street and jumps down anyway, onto the airbag the police had set up.
- Happens in Moby-Dick-Ishmael begs Queequeg not to kill himself after Queequeg sees what he believes is his impending death in the bones he casts. (it was probably really his death with the rest of the crew that he saw, if anything.) The movie has Ishmael going "Queequeg, don't. Queequeg, listen to me. Queequeg, I absolutely forbid you to die."
- So many stories in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series involve this.
- Played for Laughs in Discworld novel The Truth. William encounters a man threatening to jump off of a building and climbs up to talk him down (while bystanders are telling him he should've chosen a different building to jump from!) In the end,William find out the man frequently threatens to jump until the Watch show up and offer him money. And he's a steeplejack, making his claim that climbing up is the hard part a little questionable. And he ends up saving William, who falls from the building.
Live Action TV
- Lie to Me: In "The Royal We" Cal talks down a girl about to jump off a catwalk.
- Often turns up in CSI. It's usually the murderer of the week trying to take an easy way out, however one occassion combined this with an odd mix of Suicide by Cop where a suicidal young man, who's failed suicide had led to his girlfriend doing the same, tried to jump off a ledge and tried to get said girlfriend's neighbour (who assumed that he murderered her) to kill him when the cops showed up to talk him down ( the neighbour's talked down, but the guy jumps...into a crash pad the fire department had time to set up while he was distracted).
- On an episode of The Pretender, Jarod does this while working as a TV news cameraman.
- Mendol Ikemen: The girls talk a jumper out of killing herself, by saying she's "an angel on Earth."
- In the Torchwood episode "A Day in the Death", an undead Owen Harper manages to talk down a suicidal woman from the ledge, mostly by telling her about his own experience with death.
- Subverted in Sledgehammer, when the eponymous cop deliberately shoots at the feet of the would-be suicide to drive him off.
- In an SNL Digital Short we see a man with a bullhorn trying to talk down a "jumper" who - it is revealed - is only a few feet away from him at ground level.
- The Benny Hill Show: Benny is a passing minister who tries to talk down a jumper, until he finds out that the jumper is a fan of an opposing football team. "Well, flaming well jump then!"
- In Kyle XY, in the episode Lockdown, Kyle talks Jessi out of jumping.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in the episode "I Only Have Eyes For You," Angel talks Buffy out of killing herself, but Angel and Buffy are both not themselves at the time - they are possessed by the ghosts of other people. What makes it weirder is that it happens during the time that Angel is evil.
- In the episode "Earshot," Buffy talks Jonathan Levinson out of killing himself, although she thinks that she is convinving him not to commit mass murder instead.
- Buffy also convinces Angel not to kill himself when he is attacked by the First Evil.
- Buffy herself has to be talked out of suicide when she thinks after being resurrected she's in hell. It takes Dawn being in danger to spur her out of it, and the whole season to come to terms with just how much her life at this point absolutely sucks it.
- The Mentalist has Jane taking an interesting approach to talking a woman out of jumping from a bridge. He tells her that if she's gonna jump, "make sure to dive, head first" because from that height, she would only suffer "massive internal injuries." She responds by clutching onto a support beam in horror.
- The title character from Hooperman does this with props (specifically a watermelon) in the pilot episode. While he talks the would-be jumper out of jumping, he brings up the finality of death and demonstrates by throwing the watermelon to the street below. In a later episode, he tries this again. However, he decides against taking the watermelon out of the bag when the jumper says he can't stand the sight of them.
- A regular occurrence on Flashpoint; almost half of SRU Team One's hot calls have involved this, though they don't always succeed.
- A semi-regular occurance on Barney Miller, where the squad will get a call about a jumper and then return with the would-be suicide. In one episode Fish goes out to talk someone down while a woman is having a baby at the precinct. After she delivers Fish shows up and is told about the delivery. "You win some, you lose some." He was unsuccessful.
- In an episode of The Bob Newhart Show had Bob's character, a psychiatrist, have to do this while in a Zorro costume (for a costume party). He even gets out on the ledge, and after succeeding, strikes a Zorro pose alone on the ledge.
- Subverted on the 2010 Upstairs Downstairs revival. Harry attempts to talk Persie out of shooting herself and to wrest the gun away from her, but Beryl is shot in the ensuing Gun Struggle...and this spurs Persie to dive over a railing to her death.
- The NCIS episode "Leap of Faith" starts with Gibbs trying to talk down a suicidal naval officer. It starts to work—and then someone shoots the officer.
- In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Hard Time," Bashir has to keep O'Brien, who's been traumatized by spending twenty years in a mental prison (in less than an hour to the outside world), from phasering himself.
- The midseason finale of Rizzoli & Isles has Jane doing this with a murder suspect, having just discovered proof that he's being framed for the murder of his mistress. Of course, not two seconds after he's been talked out of jumping off a bridge, he slips and falls off anyway, resulting in a Cliffhanger.
- Arnold Horshack in Welcome Back, Kotter talks a new girl out of jumping out the window when she has trouble fitting in. Said girl would become his love interest and eventual wife.
- The speaker of the song "Jumper" by Third Eye Blind is attempting to talk someone else down from a ledge.
- The Nickelback song "Lullaby" is all about this, except that the speaker isn't there in person. He's playing the song over the radio, hoping that the suicidal will hear it wherever she is and know that she isn't alone.
- "Moments" by Emerson Drive. The narrator is planning to jump off a bridge when he hands the money in his pocket to a homeless man. The homeless man then sings the chorus to him ("I've had my moments / Days in the sun / Moments I was second to none / Moments when I knew I did what I thought I couldn't do…") which inspires the narrator to reconsider his actions and also say that he has had his moments before walking away. As he does, he imagines that the homeless man will share stopping a suicide as one of his "moments".
- Played for laughs in Avenue Q. While the main characters are out and about in the city, an offstage voice cries out:
Jumper: I'm gonna jump!
Cast: Don't do it!
- Defender of RON, a game in the Reality On The Norm series, has an optional mission where the protagonist has to try and talk The Grim Reaper out of a suicide attempt.
- In Sam & Max Beyond Time And Space episode one, the title pair have to talk Jimmy Two-Teeth out of jumping to his death. Unfortunately, Sam's attempts to talk him out of jumping are countered by Max's encoouragement to jump. They finally go to get the only one who can talk him out of it: his wife.
- In Mass Effect 1, if you have the settler background, you get a mission to help out another victim of the slaver raid that Shepard survived, and who is now standing on the docks, threatening to kill herself. Shepard can talk to her to get her to calm down, and get her to take the sedative, so she can get the care she needs.
- In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, CJ comes across a rapper threatening to jump. He makes a token effort to get him down, but in the end steals a straw truck so he lands semi-safely.
- In Hate Plus, during the harem route, you have to help *Hyun-ae, an AI, stop another AI, *Mute, from essentially committing suicide by wiping everything but her core data, done by selecting pre-set arguments appealing to *Mute's coded directives of duty and honor.
- In Deus Ex: Human Revolution you must do this with Isaias Sandoval, who is on the verge of suicide after his role in The Conspiracy has been exposed.
- Two examples in Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword:
- After losing her entire unit, Fiora the pegasus knight is prepared to lead a suicidal charge against the Black Fang. Florina must talk to her to recruit her over to your side, telling her not to throw away her life.
- Harken, a knight of Pherae, infiltrates the Black Fang with the hopes of going against them, hoping he dies in the process as penance for failing to protect Lord Elbert. Hector, Oswin or anyone from House Pherae can talk him out of this and get him to join their side.