WARNING: The following story talks about suicide could be potentially upsetting and trigger an individuals own memories or experience.
By Mark Reilly – Vulnerability Inspector, West Mercia Police
Late evening in January 2018, I was the Force Duty Inspector responsible for risk assessing every incident that came into West Mercia Police.
My role was to risk assess every incident that had any threat, harm or risk to any person or property. Incidents include those that have violence, weapons or threats to self-harm/suicide. I would be the commander for any firearms or taser deployment, any bomb or terrorist threat and ensure the right officers were deployed to serious incidents such as a murder or serious assault to name only a few.
One incident that evening has stayed with me ever since. It wasn’t an incident where I needed to deploy Firearm assets. It wasn’t an incident where I had to evacuate buildings due to terrorist threats. It was an incident where one person in crisis was threatening to jump from a bridge in Shrewsbury into the River Severn.
The evening was dark, cold and very wet. The rain had been relentless and it was one of our darkest winters for some time. The lady has recently experienced many difficulties and was unable to cope which led her to believe that her life was no longer worth living. She was standing on the wrong side of a bridge looking down into a freezing cold river some distance below. She was at rock bottom.
Cars were driving by. Tooting horns could be heard along with the splashes of puddles as drivers were eager to continue their own journey. To the person in crisis, this just echoed around in her head along with the dark thoughts of suicide.
A call comes into the Police Control room. A man says he has pulled over on a bridge somewhere in Shrewsbury and can see a young woman standing on the other side of the bridge. He is on his own and asks for Police support. He says he will keep his phone on to give direction but will approach the lady to see if she is OK. The call does not end.
The Police Controller on the other end of the phone could hear the man speak to the lady. He is calm, polite and empathetic. He asks her if she is OK. He can be heard to tell the lady he will stay with her. He tells her the Police are coming to help. He can be heard to ask the lady to come over to the right side of the railings. Come and get warm and dry. He asks her about her day. He shows an interest in her. Never judging, never interrupting. He tells her she will be OK.
The Police arrive to find the man helping the lady back to the right side of the railings by holding her hand. He still has the phone in the other. The Police Constable goes to them and escorts the lady to the Police car. The man heads back to his own car with another Constable.
I am in the control room standing up at my desk listening at tentatively to the updates over the Radio. Trying to visualise what is going on at the scene. I speak over the radio to the Officer with the man.
I want to know why HE stopped to help rather than driving by like others did. His answer gave me a sense of pride as to why Suicide Prevention Groups are formed. He explained he had taken 20 minutes of his time to complete an online little course from the Zero Suicide Alliance. The link had been emailed to me him from a friend who recently had it emailed to him. Having taken the time to do the course he knew he could not just drive by. He knew he needed to help and ask if the lady was OK. He was so relieved she was.
The same was asked of the lady. Why did SHE not jump? She explained she was ready to go. Nothing was going to stop her. The cars driving by confirmed that nobody cared when a little voice was heard to ask if she was OK. A tiny voice that pulled her from her thoughts. She was asked again by the voice who told her she would be OK. A voice that said he would not leave her on her own. A sudden sense of emotion and warmth came thundering through her body that someone actually did care and wanted to give their time to her and how she was feeling. She saw a man standing there, soaked wet through in the rain. An angel she called him. She did not want to be where she was any longer. She was stronger than that. He held his hand out to offer her assistance and she took it. She was safe.
I thank the officers for their support and ask them to pass on my regards and thanks to the man. I turn off the radio channel, sit down and carry on with my duties beaming inside.
Complete the Zero Suicide Course
This incident happened not long after I had completed the Zero Suicide Alliance course myself. Having heard the answers to my question I was absolutely bouncing with joy inside. This course works. Even if it helps just one person, it has achieved its full intention.
If this course takes just 20 minutes to complete and can be online.
To enrol on the course and to learn more visit: https://www.zerosuicidealliance.com/training/