Ultimate sacrifice: What makes a real-life hero?

Laura Hampson
·4-min read
Heroism can be instinctive (Getty)
Heroism can be instinctive (Getty)

Folajimi ‘Jimi’ Olubunmi-Adewole lost his life doing something heroic. The 20-year-old was one of two men who jumped into the Thames on Saturday in an attempt to save a woman who fell from London Bridge.

While the coast guard and the Met Police rescued the woman and one of the men, tragically, a body thought to be Olubunmi-Adewole's, was found six hours later.

Olubunmi-Adewole’s father Michael Adewola, 63, told the Sun that his son was a “very unique and angelic soul”.

“I am proud of him, so proud, and I want the world to know he is the deepest and most wonderful man," Adewola added.

"He is a hero, and always will be. I can't bring him back but I want him to be remembered forever for what he did. It was just like him to want to always try and help others."

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Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan tweeted on Sunday that Folajimi Olubunmi-Adewole “was the best of us”.

“A true hero of our city who gave his life trying to save another,” Khan continued. “My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time of tragic loss.”

Olubunmi-Adewole was, undoubtedly, a hero - but why are some people more instinctively heroic than others?

“Heroism is not something that expects adulation or reward - it is a strong and sometimes overwhelming desire to help another who is in need or in immediate danger,” psychotherapist and Counselling Directory member Beverley Blackman tells Yahoo UK.

“Alongside empathy and altruism, you will usually find personality traits of confidence, strength, reliability, morality, resilience, determination, compassion and reliability. People who possess most of these traits are more likely to be inclined towards heroic acts. Tributes from Folajimi's family demonstrate that he was a young man who possessed many traits of heroism and who was 'brave, kind, selfless' and with 'a big heart’.”

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Blackman adds that society in the UK is built on the idea of it being a good thing to help others in need.

“People will generally want to help those whom they observe to be in distress,” she continues. “Usually, the more empathic a person, the stronger their sense of altruism. Empathy comes from those who have a strong sense of morality and personal standards, and the belief that others less fortunate than themselves deserve care and will benefit from it. A caring nature is also a strong determinant of someone with empathy and high levels of altruism.”

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Altruism, Blackman explains, is something that can be learned and usually comes from those who are raised in a nurturing environment.

“When children are used to being cared for and regarded as important and an individual in their own right, they will then learn to give that same sense of care and visibility to others, and notice that it feels good to help and to see others' welfare improve as a result,” Blackman says.

“If altruism is also noted, rewarded and celebrated, then it is reinforced as being 'good behaviour'. For people raised this way, to help another becomes totally instinctive and there will be a strong desire to do so.”

Jimi Olubunmi-Adewole used his instincts and saved a life – and he will be remembered as a hero.

What to do if you see someone who needs help

While it can be instinctive to do what you can to save someone in distress, Mark Wigley, founder of Meducate Training, says you have to consider your own safety first.

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“Sometimes you will act instinctively but what you should do is take a deep breath and stay calm. Assess the situation for danger to you - are you likely to die or be injured as well?” Wigley advises.

“Consider what you can realistically do to help. Is it better to wait until someone else can arrive and make the scene safer for you to intervene? Always contact emergency services who have the skills, equipment and experience to deal with these types of situations.”

Wigley adds that it’s also worth asking bystanders to assist you in giving help.

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“They can assess casualties for life threatening conditions, check ABC – Airway, Breathing, Circulation – and keep the emergency services updated if things are getting worse,” Wigley continues.

“Often people won’t come forward to help unless they are asked. Use bystanders to help give basic first aid, stopping any serious bleeding and putting people in the recovery position.”

A GoFundMe has been set up to support Jimi’s family, you can donate here: gofundme.com