It's common knowledge that China has some of the toughest workplace rules in the world. And thanks to those, the number of people that commit suicide is also alarmingly high. This has also led to some employers using suicide nets outside their buildings.
The Nanjing-Yangtze river bridge, situated between Pukou and Xiaguan in Nanjing is one of the most frequented suicide spots in China. Built in 1968 as a symbol of China's industrial power, by 2006, the bridge had seen more than 2000 people jump in the Yangtze river to their deaths.
One man, however, is fighting to bring these numbers down. 48-year-old Chen Si, who originally hails from a village in Suqian, visits the bridge every weekend, hoping to prevent people from committing suicide. He's been going to the bridge for the past 13 years, without missing a single weekend, and has saved more than 300 lives.
Every time he sees someone about to jump, he talks to them, grabs them back to safety, and even offers them a place to stay.
Most people who come to the bridge are poor people from outside Nanjing who have become frustrated with their lives and think they have no future in the city and are too afraid to go back to their hometowns.
Chen, who once was himself a frustrated worker in the town and was helped by a kind person, wanted to help others who were going through the same. Talking to DailyMail, he said,
By saving these desperate people, I feel like I am saving the past self. I was once, one of them, I was helped by a kind-hearted countryman when I faced hardship working as a vegetable-seller in Nanjing. When my life got better, I wanted to help others find hope.
After coming to Nanjing in 1990, Chen worked as a construction worker and a vegetable-seller, but things weren't working out for him and he couldn't even afford to rent a proper house. Soon, with some advice and encouragement from a fellow countryman, Chen managed to open a grocery store for himself and that helped him build a life. He got married in 1997 and also had a daughter.
After coming to know about the frequent suicide attempts at the Yangtze river bridge, he decided he had to help these people. He added,
Sometimes, you face difficulty while living alone away from your home, all you need is a little encouragement from others.
Every Saturday and Sunday, he travels 20 km from his home to the bridge and stays there from 8 AM to 5 PM. Inspired by him, psychology students from nearby universities now come along to provide counselling to those in need. He has now rented a two-bedroom apartment just north of the bridge and offers the place to people who might need it.
The bridge used to be the poster image of Communist China, being the first one to be built over the river Yangtze. Now, however, the bridge stands as a symbol of kindness and renewed hope.
Keep up the good work, Mr. Chen. You are, indeed, an inspiration to everyone.