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Wanda Behrens-Horrell
Wanda Behrens-Horrell L.C.S.W., N.C.P

The Bridge Between Life and Death

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

It is interesting that architectural structures can elicit so many memories and feelings. When I was interning at Psychiatric Institute, I would get off at the 181st street exit right before the George Washington Bridge. I would feel grateful that I didn't have to travel over the bridge to get to the lithium clinic where I was studying. My psychoanalytic studies brought me to the Tappan Zee Bridge, which I drove back and forth for over six years. There were days full of sunshine when boats would be sailing beneath me and there were days when I would be caught in a snowstorm and my Volkswagen would just die in the middle of the bridge.

When I bought a house in Newport, RI there was a long bridge I would travel over, but this was always pleasant because I was anticipating being at my weekend home. Where I felt free from the world I had left behind on the other side of the bridge.

Last but not least, the most important bridge was a small bridge at 225th street in the Bronx, which connects the Bronx to Manhattan. A bridge of little importance to most but it was the most meaningful bridge to me. It was where my father and I would share long weekend afternoons together. It was where I understood the meaning of trust as my father would pick me up and hold me with strong hands so that I could peek over the bridge and see the spacious world that extended beyond me.

On September 22nd, a Rutgers University freshman, Tyler Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge. Bridges that have been my freedom became the instrument of his death. Was it a spontaneous decision to end his life due to humiliation? Humiliation resulting from being filmed on a web cam while in a moment of intimacy with another man, which was later streamed on the internet for all to view.

Some are pointing fingers at technology and others towards a recent study demonstrating that college students have become less empathetic since the year 2000. Maybe this is true but I can assure you I have met many college students that are empathic and caring about others and societies needs. However, "If college students are truly less empathetic than is the same true of their parents?"

Was it possible to have saved this young man's life? Being in the trenches for over 30 years I understand that ultimately I am helpless when it comes to preventing an individual's destiny. No matter what interventions and precautions a psychotherapist puts in place to protect their patients there are no guarantees.

The Second Blog Will Continue My Thoughts on the Matter

©2010 Wanda Behrens Horrell, All Rights Reserved

About the Author
Wanda Behrens-Horrell

Wanda Behrens-Horrell, L.C.S.W., N.C.Psy.A, is a child developmental psychoanalyst in Scarsdale, NY.

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