Trigger warning: This post deals with suicide and may be distressing for some readers.
Just over two years ago, on the 4th of December 2014, Dan Price was spotted by a security guard walking ‘heel-to-toe’ along a thin piece of railing outside the safety fence on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
It was 5:45am on a Thursday morning, and the city was only just beginning to stir.
Dan was heavily intoxicated and, by his own admission, in a world of his own.
He didn’t quite know why he was there – or what he was doing. Suddenly, the quiet December morning was disturbed by sirens from police, fire and ambulance crews.
The Harbour Bridge was promptly shut down, and traffic was at a standstill.
“The fear and shock that rushed over me was unimaginable,” Dan wrote of the ordeal.
Over the weekend, two years since the event that would forever change Dan’s life, he shared a Facebook post sincerely thanking the police and emergency services who saved his life.
“Arun Trevitt was the main Police officer who talked me through a petrifying 20 minutes while my life hung in the balance, before I was lowered a harness to put on so I could get back over the security fence to safety. I have spoken to Arun since, and sent thanks to all those who did an amazing job to help save me that morning,” Dan wrote.
This time of year could be very different for Dan’s family and friends.
“For those that know and love me, the 4th of December could forever be the day that breaks their heart. The day they lost their grandson, son, brother, uncle, nephew and friend. I know that their lives would’ve been shattered forever, because I have spoken with many people who have lost loved ones to suicide. I am so sincerely thankful and grateful it isn’t that day, but sadly it is that devastating day of mourning, pain and loss for many others across Australia.”
Dan also shared the email correspondence sent from his parents to Trevitt at 4:45pm that afternoon, sincerely thanking him for his compassion and “persistent effort” in saving the life of their son.
“My wife Cate and I just wanted to thank you for your persistent efforts to save our son in the early hours of this morning…He is a lovely sensitive bloke, well worth saving..hopefully he can see the light at the end of the tunnel and embrace the difficult road to recovery. Given your wonderful work this morning, at least he now as the choice.”
And Dan did indeed make a choice. After he was admitted to hospital, and spent a number of days in a psychiatric ward, he checked into a private hospital rehabilitation centre for intensive medical care. He spent the next three weeks, over Christmas and New Years Eve, working on recovery.
In July of this year, Dan wrote about his experience with anxiety and depression in a Facebook post.
"I feel very lucky and grateful to still be alive having survived a horrendously painful, lonely period of darkness leading to suicidal thoughts and hospitalisation on more than one occasion."
"I had come to feel completely worthless and helpless. I felt I was a failure. Self-loathing was like poison running through my veins. Constant negative thoughts corrupted my mind. I couldn't look at myself in the mirror, I struggled to smile and laugh but continued to put on an act, a brave face.
"My friends and colleagues jokingly gave me the nickname, 'The Ghost' because I would always disappear from social occasions early without saying goodbye, or just not turn up at all. It was true... I had become a ghost, a shadow of my former self. I couldn't feel much at all. Sadly, I was 'ghosting' home to sit by myself, crippled by my depression. I would often cry and drink myself to sleep, praying that I wouldn't wake up. The pain was overbearing..."
Since receiving treatment, and writing about his experience, Dan is the happiest he has been in five years.
"I now have a healthy balance of all the key things in my life; family, friends, partner, work, fitness, and importantly, relaxation and time to myself. Mindfulness meditation is a popular, simple and effective way to deal with the stresses of everyday life..." he writes.
To anyone who feels like he did - just over two years ago - when he stood on a thin piece of railing on the Harbour Bridge, Dan says "..those feelings will pass".
"The storm will pass eventually, and you will see the blue sky again. Life is worth living. You are not alone. Vulnerability is strength. If in doubt, reach out."
If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner or in Australia, contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.