United Kingdom

Student, 20, tracks down kind stranger who stopped her taking her own life

A first-year student has tracked down the quick-thinking father-of-two who stopped her taking her own life by jumping off a bridge.

Jess Paramor, then 19, was about to jump in Maidstone, Kent last January when Tony Witton, 56, talked her off the ledge.

Four days later, the student, who suffers from mental illnesses, returned to the same area to end her own life - only to be rescued by a second man and wife on their way home from the cinema.

Now recovered, Ms Paramor is studying pharmaceutical science at the University of Lincoln and hopes to improve psychiatric medicine in the future.

She was reunited with Mr Witton, a manager at Kent County Council, after launching a campaign on Facebook to find the kind strangers who had helped her through her darkest moments.

Ms Paramor said: 'For others in a similar situation, I would say what they are feeling is valid and they deserve help for that, even if they feel like they don't deserve it.

'There is light at the end of the tunnel even if it seems impossible to find. There is always someone who will be trying to hold a torch for you if you let them in.' 

'I have never felt more stable in myself than I have now and I just wanted to reach out and to let them know how far I have come and to thank them for giving me my future.

Jess Paramor, then 19, was about to jump off a bridge Maidstone, Kent last January when Tony Witton, 56, talked her off the ledge. She is now studying at the University of Lincoln

'I found both men who saved me. Neither of them are on Facebook so it was through the power of friends and family.

'Since then, I have had calls with each of them. They were both choked up to hear I was okay and that I was at university doing so well for myself. And they are both grateful that I am still here.'

After the suicide attempt on January 11, 2020, Ms Paramor was assessed by a mental health professional at Priority House in Maidstone.

The student, also from Maidstone, has borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety, high functioning autism and ADHD.

But she was able to convince health professionals she could be treated in the community rather than in hospital.

Four days later, still wanting to end her own life, she returned to the same area when a second man and his wife intervened on their way home from the cinema.

She was then sectioned and stayed at Priority House for two weeks.

Ms Paramor has since been improving over time, with the help of private talking therapy and NHS psychological talking therapy.

She also joined an art therapy class in Chatham and has been given a more effective combination of medication.

Now she hopes to work in the drugs industry to develop and improve psychiatric medication after experiencing its side effects first hand.  

Tony Witton, 56, is a manager at Kent County Council who talked Ms Paramor off the ledge last January. He has since revealed: 'The dad in me came out. I have got two daughters'

Mr Witton said he was walking to a nearby McDonald's when he spotted the suicidal teenager on a bridge and went over to ask if she was okay.

Taking her hand, he asked Ms Paramor to tell him a little bit about herself while helping her to return to safety and police were called.

The father-of-two said: 'The dad in me came out. I have got two daughters who are probably a similar age. I didn't have to think about it, I just thought I could protect her and she had to be safe.

'I just went up to ask if she was okay. She said she wasn't so I said 'talk to me about that.' I just held hands with her and put my hands around her. We were chatting about her friends and her interests.'

Mr Witton, from Maidstone, said he had just read Matt Haig's memoir Reasons to Stay Alive, which describes the author's own triumph over suicide. 

During what he described as an emotional phone call, Mr Witton learned Ms Paramor has also now read the book.

Mr Witton said: 'I had just read a book called Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. 

'He's a long-term sufferer with depression and at one stage wanted to commit suicide. When I spoke to Jess a couple of days ago she said she'd actually read that book.

'It was quite emotional. I don't suppose I had really thought about what I had done and she said to me thanks for saving my life and moreover for giving me a future.'

After speaking with Ms Paramor on the phone, Mr Witton said: 'I was a bit nervous but really pleased. I have often thought about her, hoping she was okay.

'The fact Jess is putting energy into developing more effective medicine at uni is just incredible.'

For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, or click here for details. 

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