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Heroes

'I put my arms around him': Man risks his life saving a stranger during suicide attempt on bridge

"I told him whatever it was, whatever was going on in his life, it was going to be OK."

rochester new york, david dellefave, suicide

Rochester, New York.

Suicide is an emotionally fraught and complex topic to discuss. But one overlooked part of the issue that provides some hope is that even though suicidal crises are predominantly caused by chronic issues, they are usually short-lived.

An article in the journal Crisis, cited in a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health news piece, states that the acute period of heightened risk for suicidal behavior is often only hours or minutes long. Around 87% of people deliberated for less than a day. Another article in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that of people taken to the hospital after a suicide attempt, 48% considered the idea for fewer than 10 minutes.


Another study found that nine out of 10 people who attempt suicide do not go on to die in a subsequent attempt.

The research shows that if we can stop someone in an attempt or prevent it from happening in the first place, there is a very good chance that they will never die by suicide. That's one reason that a story out of Rochester, New York, reported by WHEC News is so powerful.

David DelleFave was driving over the East Henrietta Road bridge over Interstate 390 in Rochester on his work break when he saw a man climb over the railing and step out onto a small ledge. He called out to the man from his car.

"He didn’t say much. He sat there. He said he was having some issues," DelleFave told WHEC. "So I told him whatever it was, whatever was going on in his life, it was going to be OK."

The man was crying and learned over the ledge even further, so DelleFave hopped out of his car.

"I looked down over the edge and realized none of these vehicles are not going to stop in time if it does happen. I reached up behind him and I just embraced him. I put my arms around him. I hugged him from behind and I just held him," he said. "And I told him whatever it is, please come with me. Whatever is going on today, whatever it is, we’ll fix it just please come with me."

He held the man who was shaking and as he began to learn forward, DelleFave feared they both may fall off the bridge. After a perilous half minute or so, the suicidal man turned to DelleFave and said, “OK.”

When both men returned to safety they realized that the bridge was jammed with people watching the incident.

"I seen the lady here crying hysterically. I seen the other lady on the phone. I seen a gentleman down here leaning out of his truck cheering me on," he said. "That’s when I realized that—I probably just saved someone’s life."

He then bought the man some food at Taco Bell where a sheriff’s deputy arrived and took the man to the hospital. It was then that the suicidal man realized he had a new purpose in life.

"When he was talking to the sheriffs he said that he realized that he's here and how many lives he can help and he said, 'That's what it's all about,'" DelleFave told WHEC.

Given the fact that such a large number of people who survive a suicide attempt are unlikely to die by suicide in the future, DelleFave’s actions will be felt for decades. He put his life on the line to save that of a stranger and that is the very definition of the word hero.


If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call the Suicide Crisis & Lifeline at 988 immediately. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress as well as prevention and crisis resources for healthcare professionals.

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