On a coach holiday to Eastbourne the driver took us on an optional trip out and we stopped for about twenty minutes at Beachy Head, the highest chalk sea cliff (163m / 531 ft) and famous suicide spot. We alighted from the coach into bright sunlight. With fortuitous timing as the driver was telling us someone from the chaplain service drove along the road about ever twenty minutes looking for jumpers, the chaplain drove passed.
On average there are 20 jumpers each year. I remember reading a small column-filler in the newspaper where a young woman had jumped to her death near Beachy Head and on her body was found a terse note: “Life is simply not for me.” The story from The Telegraph is below.
I saw a few telephones with the Samaritans number on it. Also the coach driver said workers at the pub and taxi drivers are also on the look-out for possible jumpers. Across the globe these cliffs are the third place for people killing themselves by throwing themselves over an edge: number one is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and, number two, the Aokigahara Woods in Japan.
Looking over the edge was sickeningly exciting. I could remember those frightening chalky cliffs in a couple of films: Quadrophenia where a man goes over the top on a scooter and The Living Daylights when James Bond does the same in a Land Rover - only to parachute to safety.
I’ve met two people who have committed suicide successfully - but not by jumping over Beachy Head. One was the local barber, a colourful character. One weekend morning one of my mum’s friends rang to say police had cordoned off a nearby road as some kids had found a body. It worked out that the barber who’d cut my hair regularly and recently. He was a slight wimpy gay likeable lad and I heard on the grapevine he’d be selling drugs through his shop on the precinct. He wanted to stop but the supplier knew he was a soft as mud and forced him to continue. The pressure heightened, he cracked and hung himself from a post.
Once I had a flat to rent out and a mother asked if she could bring her daughter round for a viewing. The daughter had two broken legs and she just about managed to mount the steep steps on crutches. A slug could have beaten her to the door of the flat. She’d been in a psychiatric section of the hospital and tried to jump out of a high window to kill herself. Life was not broken but two legs were. Thankfully she didn’t like the deep Victorian bath and didn’t rent the place.
When people hear of someone who’s committed suicide and make remarks like, “They wouldn’t kill themselves – never in a thousand years,” or “I knew them inside it; it isn’t in their nature,” I’m surprised. Who really knows the interior life of another person? Who knows what flights of joy and numbing misery flex and fluctuate in that grey stuff inches behind our eyes? How can we ever know what unedited thoughts flow through the windowless back rooms of our minds where were live alone with ourselves?
I’m fairly sure thoughts of not wanting to live are more common than anyone knows. I never understand it though. Are not music and books and art a reason to live? I also think how lucky I am to be here. Millions of my dad’s sperm died but one made it to one of about 480 eggs my mum released in her lifetime. I owe it to that tadpole and that egg to live on. I think of suicide in a practical way. Between 2050 and 2060 I expect to be somewhere towards the end. As I’ll be single and I baulk at the thought of medical people invading my privacy I can foresee a trip to Dignitas in Switzerland to drink a glass of lethal milkshake.
So here is a sad painting on a small canvas. The woman has just walked into the room to find someone slumped on the couch, slipping into the abyss. I’m not sure about the picture on the wall but it looks like an object has been thrown at it.
At Beachy Head, the third most popular place to commit suicide….
From The Telegraph newspaper 3rd Aug 2005
An outstanding student drowned herself on the eve of starting at Oxford University because she felt "life is simply not for me".
Alice McGovern was last been seen by her mother as she packed in preparation for a chemistry course at New College after gaining four As at A-level.
But the 18-year-old, who was described by her boyfriend as a fearless character who was looking forward to her 19th birthday party at Oxford, never completed her task.
Instead, an inquest heard yesterday, she wrote three suicide notes - two of which she tore up and threw in a bin - and then drove 20 miles to the hamlet of Crowlink, near Beachy Head, East Sussex.
One of the notes read: "For all those who loved me, please don't feel in any way responsible for my death. Life is simply not for me. I am not filled with grief as I write these words. I simply have no will to carry on living and the idea of death does not scare me.
"I would especially like to thank Alex [her boyfriend] for showing me a fantastic summer and making me truly happy. Good luck with everything in the future and don't let this event stop you from doing anything. Please don't mourn my death." Another note found on her pillow, said: "I am so sorry. Please forgive me." She signed it with three kisses.
Her body was found in the sea last October near Beachy Head, a spot where she and her family had enjoyed walking.
According to a post-mortem examination, Alice, of Punnett's Town, near Heathfield, had drowned and had injuries to her ribs, possibly as a result of falling from the 150ft cliffs.
The former deputy head girl at the £11,300-a-year St Leonards-Mayfield School, where her mother Marion, 52, is deputy head, had enjoyed a glittering school career. Apart from her A-levels in chemistry, physics, maths and further maths, which won Alice her school's Gibbs Cup for academic excellence, she had earlier attained 11 GCSEs, all at A-star grade.
As captain of the hockey club, she led the under-16 team to victory in the Sussex schoolgirls' championships in 2001. She also played the oboe and acted in school plays.
Alex Green, her boyfriend, told the Eastbourne inquest: "She was always very happy and extremely cheery and was the most upbeat character I had ever known. She was always the sort of person to look on the bright side of life.
"She was looking forward to meeting new people and trying new things. She was going to plan a 19th birthday party at Oxford and invite lots of people. She was genuinely looking forward to it. I have never really known her to be fearful of anything. She was a fearless character. But she had an extremely happy time at school and in her teenage years and I think that, although she never said it, she was going to miss me and the life she had."
Recording a verdict of suicide, Alan Craze, the coroner, said: "It gives me absolutely no pleasure at all to have to return such a verdict in relation to somebody who was such an outstanding and talented girl and who died in such tragic circumstances."
After the hearing Alice's father, Christopher, 54, said: "There was no indication that she was going to take her life."