A Cantonese-speaking New York police officer has used his language skills to talk a suicidal man out of ending
his life by throwing himself off a bridge.
The Chinese man was standing on the edge of the Verrazano Bridge, which connects Brooklyn to Staten Island, when he brought traffic to a standstill yesterday, the US ABC Network reports.
First responders were unable to communicate with the distressed man and promptly called their Chinese-born colleague Yi Huang.
The officer rushed to the scene and spoke to the suicidal man, reassuring him as a fellow Asian immigrant that his financial situation would improve as well as problems with his teenage daughter.
After a four-hour standoff the negotiator managed to talk the man out of his plan and he walked away from the edge of the bridge.
A spokesman for the New South Wales Police's Mental Health Intervention unit, which deals with suicide attempts, said starting a conversation with those about to take their lives could help.
"First port of call is to contact police," Detective Superintendent Dave Donohue told ninemsn.
"Don’t put yourself in a situation of risk and, if you feel that you have the ability to, enter some kind of dialogue before police arrive."
He said even if talking to the person at risk did not seem to be working it would usually buy enough time for experts to arrive and take control of the situation.
Once police arrive it is important for the people speaking to the suicidal person to be prepared to hand the matter over to police, he added.
He said he had been in situations where some people have been unwilling to let the police take over.
Alan Woodward, the executive director of the Lifeline Foundation for suicide prevention in Australia, said simply asking those at risk if they are feeling okay is one of the best ways to help prevent suicide.
"If it's a friend or family member who you are concerned about it's important to ask honestly and openly if they are feeling suicidal," he said.
"Research shows most of the time people will answer honestly, particularly if someone they trust is asking the question."
Mr Woodward stressed that asking someone about suicidal thoughts would not influence them to carry through with suicide.