For the birds


When he called, he had already been expressing some thoughts of wanting to harm himself. The night before, he had been involved in a dramatic domestic abuse incident, and those thoughts lingered with him still.

“I am having thoughts of harming myself,” he told my coworker, who, by random luck, was the one to pick up his call.

“OK, sir- where are you right now?” she asked, attempting to gather more information.

“I’m at work,” OK this was good as he was probably not alone. “I’m currently up in a tree lift,” OK, maybe not so good.

The man was making his desperate call for solace from the raised bucket of his tree trimming truck, and he was contemplating how easy it might be for him to just jump out.

As we assisted her in what ways we could, my coworker managed to talk the man into lowering his bucket back down to earth. As she relayed me the details of his current situation (actively suicidal with plans and means, domestic issues, etc.), I arranged everything to provide that man with a smooth admission into our adult hospital for crisis stabilization.

And then he refused to go. 

Not because he did not think he needed help. Not because he did not want to go into an inpatient setting. No, he refused because he believed he needed to finish up his workday: high up in the air, cutting down tree limbs… while actively suicidal.

Often times, I think just the act of calling a help line is enough for some people to realize that they are not alone in whatever they are currently facing.  On the other end of the phone is a stranger that now carries some of that burden for them. And for some, the act of sharing is enough, in their minds, to get them out of their immediate crisis.  What they forget is that while they did go and make the effort to call a crisis line, they still need to follow-through with the recommendation made by the professional on the other end.  If the person knew how to change their situation already, they would not be calling a crisis line in the first place. One call is not going to solve all their problems, but it can help set in motion the next steps that will assist towards that goal.

So back to our guy: It took a lot of reality-based confrontation and multiple calls back and forth before he agreed to get help beyond just a phone call. Sometimes all a person needs is to hear their own words said back to them before they realize how they sound to the rest of the world. In this case, it worked (as did explaining to him how a fall from that height would probably not have the desired effect, and would more likely result in a stay in a medical hospital and extensive physiotherapy for whatever limbs he could still move.)


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