The other side of suicide
After covering news across the eastern suburbs for over two decades and witnessing how emergency services respond to those in need, a difficult topic needs to be discussed.
We have been approached by emergency services on a number of occasions over the years to bring to light what really happens when a person decides to take their life by jumping from great heights along our coastline and how it impacts the public and emergency services who respond to those in need.
Suicides by cliff jumps have never stopped despite CCTV cameras and phone help points being installed along known “hotspots” such as “The Gap” and “Jacob’s Ladder” in Vaucluse.
Locals across Rose Bay, Vaucluse, Bondi, Diamond Bay and Watsons Bay will often hear the sounds of sirens screaming past their homes not knowing where they are going or what is happening.
Whilst this is a difficult subject to talk about, it’s also an important one. The discussion is overdue and has never been documented as the subject is considered “too sensitive”.
We remained silent for over four years after being asked by emergency services to write about this.
So, what really happens when someone approaches a cliff edge as a means to find a way out?
Is it a simple and painless end as many may think?
If there are public bystanders who witness a “cliff incident”, psychological trauma is common for those who are present.
For emergency responders, Police, Paramedics, Surf Life Saving, and Council Lifeguards, they are often confronted by a horrific scene.
What you don’t hear about is when the plans of the person don’t go as expected.
Whilst everyone may think that jumping off a 60m cliff is an instant way out, there have been many occasions where a jump from the Gap and other places along the cliffs along the eastern beaches and eastern suburbs has ended in relatively unscathed survival, broken bones, major internal injury, lifelong pain and either partial or complete loss of motor function with no brain injury.
For others, depending on how they land following the great fall, it may not be an instant death, but a lonely painful delayed one. The “Mechanism” of the injury is nothing short of horrific and beyond one’s imagination unless you have medical training and understand trauma on the human body.
Emergency services are left to clean up the mess left behind, or worse still deal with a person who is in extreme pain and have little remedy other than to administer some form of pain relief hoping they can help in some way knowing the death is likely, but delayed.
Whilst most emergency services grow used to this “daily routine” it does take its toll and it’s well known that first responders take their own life due to the trauma they have witnessed.
Many emergency workers have given up their job after seeing their first suicide as it was simply too overwhelming and distressing for them to handle.
Today (26 January, 2024) two people took their lives in separate locations along the cliff in Sydney’s east.
Just after 6.00pm this evening, after extensive efforts by police to talk a man down from jumping, he made the decision to end his life in the presence of emergency services. Due to the dangerous location and difficult access, a rescue helicopter needed to be tasked to assist with medical assessment.
Special Operations paramedics with the assistance of Police Rescue began the process of abseiling down the cliff to come to his aid. The man was found deceased at the bottom of the cliff. It remains unclear if the death was instant.
At the same time, rescue services needed to be coordinated to another report of a body found at the base of the cliff near Lyons Rd, Dover Heights.
It’s understood a woman was located by fisherman deceased, also believed to be related to suicide.
The man was winched by the Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter just after 7.30pm this evening. Police continue to work to recover the woman’s body.
Late last year a person had jumped off the Gap and survived. They were rescued by water police and taken to Watson’s Bay wharf.
A few years ago a young girl took her life by jumping off the Gap, she too survived but sustained serious injuries in the incident. One can only hope the young girl has fully recovered and has continued on with the support she needs.
Whilst many may think that the beautiful cliffs along our coast are a “perfect” way to bring “matters to an end”, it has been long overdue to let those in need know, it’s not what you may expect.
The trauma for family, friends and the services who respond to the call for help can be just as horrific for them as it is for those who decide to jump.
There is help for those in need.
You can contact the following services to speak confidentially.
Lifeline – 13-11-14
Beyond Blue – 1300-224-636
Kids Helpline – 1800-551-800