90 Seconds to Save a Life

The other evening I went on a date with a woman named Elise. It was a beautiful and sunny, summer evening without a cloud in the sky. I went to meet Elise at her home near Stanley Park. After my nervousness subsided from meeting someone for the first time, I knew almost immediately there was some sort of an intellectual connection based on our starting conversations and perspectives on life.

We rode bikes around the sea wall  then pulled over just before English Bay and sat down on some grass. We continued to talk a lot, particularly about mental health, relationships and our personal journeys in healing. We shared very similar perspectives on topics such as counseling, people who inspire us and ideas on how we need to keep doing our part to make the most in life. As it turns out she’s also an author of an upcoming book about projecting kindness. Elise explained how she grew up fortunate with a healthy home and with kind supporting parents and she never quite understood how people in this world could be so cruel. As an adult, she became motivated to reach out to strangers to spread kindness. And where there’s kindness, there’s love.

I was very attracted and inspired by her healthy mindset and I was able to openly share stories with her about my childhood filled with strife, leading up to my adult years. I felt safe and vulnerable enough to share these things with her because she truly practiced what she preached about being kind. She listened without judgment, validated my thoughts and was incredibly encouraged by how I’ve gravitated towards a more fulfilling life.

She shared two very interesting things with me later that evening while dining at a Greek restaurant on Denman Street.

One, she explained to me that it only takes 20 seconds of feeling brave to overcome fear. I can’t recall where she heard that from. None the less, I really like that thought! Imagine, only 20 seconds of bravery to overcome that fear of meeting someone for the first time, or 20 seconds to overcome the feeling of going down that 70 foot waterslide, or 20 seconds of bravery to ask for help.

Secondly, Elise told me this story about how a young man was driving along a busy downtown street one day with his girlfriend. While inching slowly through roads filled with pedestrians, he began waving at them one-by-one with a smile on his face. He kept doing that for a good 10 to 15 minutes until his girlfriend asked, “Why are you doing that?”

He replied, “I’m hoping to change someone’s life! I heard that if I can distract someone who might be suffering inside with depression or self-harming thoughts, I might be able to remind them that there is something good out there!”

Whether or not his methods were effective, I really admire his intentions and love that story!


One of my counselors once said that it only takes 90 seconds for a self-harming thought to pass. I have a loved one who has recently been self-harming, thus I’ve learned a lot about suicide and triggers. In most cases, those who are self-harming are trying to find a way to release internal pain, rather than trying to take away their own lives. What leads to suicide is usually accidental because they’ve either cut too far or drank too much or consumed too many pills. It’s the pain from anxiety, depression and other heavy thoughts that are so unbearable, they need to find an outlet.

90 seconds for a self-harming thought to pass…for most of us, that minute and thirty seconds is nothing. That’s part of a pop song on the radio, three-quarters of a minor penalty in hockey or even a bathroom break. But for someone who’s going through self-harm, that 90 seconds feels like an eternity. There’s tools recommended to help distract the mind for 90 seconds, such as holding a frozen orange or ice cubes, screaming, punching a pillow, taking a cold shower, talking to someone, or jumping repeatedly to name a few.

Just 90 seconds to disrupt and intervene that self-harming thought and the opportunity is there to hold onto life a little longer. And in case you’re wondering, it just took a bit over 90 seconds to read this post…a gift from me, with Kindness and Love.


Photo by Kristi MacFarlane Photography

Published by Jason Lee, Author

There’s something greater to be learned in our journey otherwise life would just be too predictable and I’m not quite willing to accept that!

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