LYNDHURST, Ohio — Free help is available 24 hours a day to anyone through the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling 988.
They’re two fathers who happen to carry a badge in neighboring Cleveland suburbs.
On one afternoon this fall, they joined forces with a sense of urgency and compassion, intent on preventing a struggling young girl perilously perched on an Interstate 271 overpass threatening to leap into oncoming traffic.
On the bridge first was Lyndhurst police Lt. Matthew Eden. Down below on the highway was Cpl. Joe Mytrosevich from Mayfield Heights police.
On the ledge, separated from the officer by a fence, stood a teenaged girl, thick traffic racing by about 20 feet below.
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Eden had encountered the troubled teen before. As a married father of two young sons, he knows the pain as a parent. He said he was determined to ensure this parent’s story had a happy ending.
He said he used those parental instincts to talk to the girl, to keep her attention focused on life and avoid her becoming another victim of the recent surge of teenage suicides.
“Having interactions with anyone that you've dealt with and you can go to those past interactions, they tend to help you when you have some experience with anyone that we're dealing with,” Eden told 3News Investigates.
“And speaking with her and reminding her of the situations where you've seen her before kind of gives you some validation with her. It lets her know that you're not just saying things to try and get her to cooperate.”
Body camera footage from the September incident was released to 3News Investigates by Mayfield and Lyndhurst police. WKYC redacted images of the girl and did not broadcast her voice to protect her identity.
Statistics from the CDC shows a recent spike in teen suicide, largely since the COVID-19 pandemic and government policies that closed schools and limited interactions for teens during parts of two years.
The numbers are especially high for teenaged girls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported a surge of emergency room visits for attempted suicide among teenage girls were up over 51% in the first months of 2021, as compared to 2019.
“Please don’t do this to me,” Eden implored the girl, according to his body cam video.
The girl responded, “You’ll be OK. I’m sorry.”
Down below, Mayfield police closed the highway. Mytrosevich was below as a fire department ladder truck arrived.
“When I saw Joe come with a ladder, I had a huge feeling of relief,” Eden recalled. “I knew if he got a chance, he was going to grab her.”
Mytrosevich, also a married father, had never climbed the ladder truck before. But he raced up, toward the bridge ledge where the girl stood. Behind her, a fence separated her from Eden.
“I sized her up. I wanted to make sure I wasn't gonna over-extend myself, so sizing her up in reference to the height and weight and how I'm gonna position myself, where I'm going to pull her to and have an escape plan," Mytrosevich told 3News. “I knew that we only had a few, we had a very short period of time and I was like, 'you know what, I have to make this right.'”
Eden continued talking with the teen as the ladder and Mytrosevich were guided toward the girl. In a flash, the officer grabbed the girl, pulling her from the ledge and onto the ladder.
He knew the risk, and the potential danger, not only to the teen but to himself.
“You don't know what to expect. Are they gonna punch, kick, bite?,” he said.
Instead, the girl’s scream turned to tears and hugs.
“She broke down, started crying and I just bear hugged her. It was pretty emotional,” Mytrosevich said.
Eden said he trusted his fellow father and officer.
“I knew that Joe was gonna grab her when he started coming up the ladder. I don't know how I knew,” he said.
According to Cuyahoga County’s Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board (ADAMHS), there have been 22 suicides of people under the age of 25 so far this year. The county saw 30 in 2021.
The CDC reports children ages 10 to 14 make up nearly 3% of national suicides – while those 15 to 24 account for about 14%.
Many believe the policy reaction to the pandemic led to unforeseen consequences, especially in terms of mental health for youth.
“Everyone was all of a sudden in one day’s time cut off. I think someday we will step back and realize how disastrous that was for our children,” Dr. Leslie Koblentz of the ADAMHS board. “I think if we can keep the conversation open and the community can remember that there is hope.”
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