Memphis police officer praised for talking suicidal teenage father off bridge

A Memphis Police Department officer talked a suicidal teenage father down from the edge of the I-40 bridge on February 2, 2023.
A Memphis Police Department officer talked a suicidal teenage father down from the edge of the I-40 bridge on February 2, 2023. | Memphis Police Department

A Memphis police officer is now receiving high praise from the public for convincing a suicidal teenage father not to end his life on the I-40 Mississippi River Bridge last Thursday.

A statement from the Memphis Police Department posted on Facebook said officials received a call about a suicidal person on the edge of the bridge and quickly responded to find the distraught 17-year-old male.  

“Officer Shaw made [it to] the scene moments later and began building a rapport with the individual as he stood on the outside ledge of the bridge contemplating suicide.
While the officers were talking to him, they found out that this individual was only 17 years old,” the statement said.

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“He explained how he is a new father and how life is stressful. Being a mother, Officer Shaw talked to him and understood his stress. Officer Shaw spoke to him for nearly 15 minutes and convinced him to hold on to her while she helped him to safety,” the MPD statement added.

Among the advice Officer Shaw gave the teenage father was "things will get better."

The rescue of the teenage father happened a day before Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland announced that the Department of Justice will review the Memphis Police Department in the wake of the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols.

Nichols, who is black, died days after he was severely beaten by five black Memphis Police Department officers during a Jan. 7 traffic stop.

“While we no doubt have a long way to go on the road to healing, hopefully through our actions, citizens will see we are working to be better and that we are heading down the right path,” Strickland said.

The image of Shaw hugging the teenage father has since gone viral with thousands of shares and reactions.

“I’m so glad we see these positive stories for our officers. What a great job done by Officer Shaw!” wrote Leslie Akins. “Not all are bad, keep sharing the good too!!”

“Awesome Officer Shaw it’s situations like that make me so proud to be a retired MPD Officer,” replied Allen Taylor. “In life you have your good and bad in everything but I choose to believe that there are more good people than bad. Officer Shaw may you continue to shine and to my MPD co-workers keep your heads up and be honorable and fair. May God bless and protect each and every one of you. My family in Blue also remember this: always exemplify your integrity.”

Many commenters also offered to help the father.

Suicide, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the second-leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24 in the U.S. Some 20% of high school students report serious thoughts of suicide and 9% have made an attempt to take their lives, data show.

Dr. Carl Fleisher, who specializes in adolescent and child psychiatry at UCLA Health, explained that teenagers are more vulnerable to suicide because of factors like where they stand developmentally.

 “Teenagers and young adults have the highest rates of suicide compared to other ages,” he said. “The things that make them vulnerable are where they stand socially and where they stand developmentally. … They're not going to weigh risks and consequences or values in quite the same way that older folks will.”

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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