Not all of the suicidal encounters I’ve been involved in have been so gruesome. And, like most police officers in
Later in my career, when I was assigned back to the Patrol Division in uniform, I had other close encounters with suicidal individuals. Once, without even thinking about what I was doing, I rushed into the path of a charging tractor trailer truck that was headed westbound on busy State Road #84, in southwest Ft. Lauderdale. A young lady wanted to end her life and she decided that stepping in front of a truck would be a quick and a sure way to accomplish this. She was almost right. After I grabbed her arm and pulled her away from the front of the speeding truck, and then somehow managed to elude this huge metal monster myself, by only a few inches, I started to shake uncontrollably as I suddenly realized just how close to death I had actually come - again!
Another time, I kneeled down a few feet away from a teenager who was sitting on the floor with his back against a wall, and who threatened to kill himself with the large kitchen knife he was holding to his own throat. Unlike the two girls that I've previously mentioned, who were both white, this lad was black. The ugly demon called suicide doesn't give a damn about race, age, gender, sexual orientation or social status. As his worried family quietly stood nearby, hoping that we could convince him to put the knife down, I tried my best to reason with him. To be honest, even though I know the topic of suicide did get mentioned during my initial training at the police academy, I really wasn't totally prepared to handle such a unique and stressful situation. I did my best, and like the family, I hoped things would work out for the best. Eventually, when it seemed that we weren't making any real progress, I lunged at the youth and took the knife away from him. In hindsight, I don't think that he really wanted to die and he was probably relieved, like I was, when the incident was finally over. Again, he was taken to a mental health care facility for evaluation and treatment.
Several years after I retired from law enforcement I decided to do some volunteer work in my own community. I saw an article in my local
I'm almost positive that all of the different 2-1-1 organizations across America operate pretty much the same way. But, I'll still just discuss my own 2-1-1 Big Bend because that is the 2-1-1 I know the most about. Among other things, 2-1-1 Big Bend is the crisis hotline for the north Florida/Big Bend area. The newspaper article I read indicated they were always looking for new volunteers to be crisis counselors for their hotlines. The training was extensive and the only requirement was that you faithfully attended all of the training sessions and you committed to doing 200 hours or one (1) year of volunteer work after your training was completed.
During my long police career I’ve had more training, reference all sorts of different topics and issues, than I even care to remember. Yet, I can truthfully say that the training I received to become a phone counselor with
Even with all of my past experience, training and job knowledge, becoming a good telephone counselor became a definite challenge for me. I quickly found that I needed to change the overall way I viewed and sometimes even interacted with people. One of the very first things the 2-1-1 training covered was the need for a phone counselor to be able t
2-1-1 Big Bend is accredited by the American Association of Suicidology and it is a member of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Even though there are areas of America without their own crisis hotlines, people can still dial 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and they will be connected to the crisis center that is nearest to them.
Because 2-1-1 handles the Suicide Hotline for the north Florida/Big Bend area, the suicide related training they give their telephone counselors is extensive. All the things I wish I had known before, when I was face-to-face with that young boy who threatened to kill himself with a knife, now I learned these things after my law enforcement career was finally over. I only wish I had this valuable training before I became a police officer. I think it would have made me a better officer, and probably a much better human being too.
Many of the calls we get at
A couple of nights ago I worked a three-hour volunteer shift at 2-1-1. It was unusually quiet and I didn't have a call all evening, not until "Dave" called. Dave is not, of course, his real name. 2-1-1 takes the confidentiality of their caller's information very seriously and that's why I can't go into any great or descriptive detail. But, Dave said that he wanted to die and he saw no other way out. I talked with him for almost forty-five minutes and again, without going into detail, the call was concluded in a positive manner and Dave got the help he so desperately needed. A successful call like this one always makes me feel so good inside, because I know I've been able to help someone who really needed it. And, I didn't have to jump in front of a speeding truck, or wrestle a gun or a knife away from someone, to do it. When I think back on all the gruesome and bloody suicide investigations I've been involved in during my career, it is such a rewarding experience to be able to intercede before things get so bad that the only thing the police can do is to call for the medical examiner.
I would suggest that anyone thinking of pursuing a career in law enforcement might want to seriously consider volunteering with their local 2-1-1 first. The training will be invaluable to them and being able to mention 2-1-1 as a reference on their resume won't look that bad either.
My book's web site: www.badge149.com