A second was all it took for Jesse Harrison to sprint, in jandals, towards the railing of the Auckland Harbour Bridge during rush hour.

The reason: A man who left his vehicle running on the motorway was attempting to climb over the railing, intent on jumping off at the highest point, 43.3m, into the harbour.

Harrison, a 23-year-old gym instructor, told the Weekend Herald how a mundane day took an astonishing turn.

He had been at work in the city followed by a mixed martial arts class on the North Shore at 6pm. It was on his way home about 7.30pm that he ran into a traffic jam on the bridge, which he assumed was a crash.


But as he got closer to the centre of the bridge he noticed a car blocking the left-most lane.

A man began climbing over the rail that separates the road from the bridge edge.

Never being in such a situation before, Harrison just reacted, he said.

"Basically I pulled over straight away, hazards on, and hit the gas on foot.

"I'm in jandals so I'm trying to get there as fast as I can as he makes his way over the edge."

The two exchanged words, Harrison urged him to consider his loved ones and all of the people he would leave behind.

The man said he had no family but Harrison assured him there was always something to live for.

By this point, other cars had begun arriving and two men, one a New Zealander, another English, came to his aid and grabbed the man.


Police confirmed they began receiving reports about concern for a person's wellbeing about 7.30pm.

Despite Harrison being an amateur MMA fighter with 13 bouts, 10 of them wins, under his belt the battle to keep the man from reaching the bridge edge was immense.

Jesse Harrison clung on desperately to a man on the harbour bridge until police arrived. Photo / Leon Menzies
Jesse Harrison clung on desperately to a man on the harbour bridge until police arrived. Photo / Leon Menzies

If only two people were there to help it may have been a different story.

"I'm grateful those guys were there too because I wouldn't be able to pull him back myself."

The trio deliberated and decided they needed to make a move in order to safely remove the man from the railing.

"We're holding him there for quite a while, we're talking like 10 minutes, trying to convince him to come back."

On the count of three, they pulled him over the rail and "held him tight" until the police arrived.

Reflecting on the whole incident he still didn't know quite how to feel, he said.

It was another human being in crisis that brought three men, who were strangers, together.

Harrison said he hoped the man was on the road to recovery and would be able to take some value from the experience.

After the incident the man was taken into custody by police and a constable had since been in touch with Harrison to check on his welfare, he said.

With New Zealand having one of the highest rates of suicide in any developed country Harrison wanted to share the story to raise awareness.

"If there's anything to believe in it's that there's always someone to help, no matter what circumstance you're in."

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said anyone who was feeling suicidal should remember they were not alone.

"I've been where you are, and I found a way through. Thousands of other New Zealanders feel suicidal every year and they recover and live great lives. But, right now, you need some help – and you deserve it."

Anyone in crisis could:

• Contact their local mental health crisis team or go to their local ED.
• Reach out to someone you know and tell them how you're feeling. If they don't respond well, don't lose hope. Try someone else.
• Try not to be alone – go to a friend/whanau member's house, ask someone to come around or find somewhere to be around people in public like a shopping centre or a library.
• Call or text a helpline like 1737 to talk to a trained counsellor.
• Make a safety plan.
• Distract yourself – watch a video, call a friend, exercise, listen to music.

If you are worried that someone is thinking of taking their own life, contact them to ask how they're going. Ask them directly if they are thinking of killing them self. If they are, they need urgent help.

"Don't wait for them to ask for help – depression makes many people feel worthless or unable to reach out – they still deserve and need support.

"Stay connected with them – visit, call or text. Depression can be a very lonely experience. Let them know you're there."

For further advice go to: www.mentalhealth.org.nz/suicideprevention

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youth services: (06) 3555 906
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
CASPER Suicide Prevention
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.