As I’m driving in my police car, our emergency tone sounded. This tone indicates that 9-1-1 Call Takers received an emergency call that is considered to be in progress. That tone was then followed by a Dispatcher who provided us, the Police Officers, with information by radio about the call they received from a citizen. “211, 213 and 201…I’ll show you en route to 4312 South Broadway Drive in reference to a Suicide. The reporting party advised her seventeen-year-old son hung himself in their backyard. He is not conscious and not breathing. The reporting party believes he is beyond help at this time.”
Upon arrival, it was just like they said. He was dead. There was nothing I could do for him. I had no ability to bring him back, no chance to “undo” what he had done. I could only hope that I was able to help comfort his family in some way as I collected their statements, answered their questions and silently pray as I watch them start the grieving process. Then after the scene is clear, I complete my report and make myself available for the next call – whatever it may be.
After about fourteen years in law enforcement, I’ve been to a number of completed suicides and suicide attempts. Shootings, hangings, overdoses, cuttings/stabbings, etc. from all types of demographics. A young mother. A Military Veteran. A Chief Financial Officer. A student. Regrettably, the list continues. All carry their own story.
Can I be honest with you? Each one impacts me. Even the times where I’ve had to do a death notification from a suicide in lieu of working the actual scene, it seems to find and hold a place in my memory bank. Forgetting doesn’t seem to be an option. I remember when I drive by their house or scene. I remember when I hear their name or one that sounds similar. I remember on my off-days. I’m saddened by their choice to take their life and I’m saddened their family is now left without them.
Suicide is widely impactful. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) WISQARS Leading Causes of Death Reports, in 2017(1):
- Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of over 47,000 people.
- Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54.
- There were more than twice as many suicides (47,173) in the United States as there were homicides (19,510).
Suicide attempts are underreported and obviously far greater in number than completed suicides. In fact, the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reported that according to their 2015 statistics, an estimated 2.7 million people made a plan about how they would attempt suicide in the past year (2). These findings are staggering.
There’s a great need for us (humanity) to play our part in helping prevent suicide. But, if someone you know told you they felt suicidal, would you know what to do or what to say? Are you aware of the resources that exist to help them or even detect the early warning signs? The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has the information online you need to Help Someone Else. This website is a great place to educate yourself on helping others who may be considering suicide. If someone you know has made an actual suicidal threat then contact your local emergency services by calling 9-1-1. And as you walk that journey with the person in distress, pray with and for them, love and listen to them. They need a friend more than a judge.
Or maybe YOU have been feeling like you’re wanting to hurt or kill yourself. I want you to know there are resources that exist that can help you. These resources include real people who want to talk with you and help you think through your thoughts and emotions. They can help you find support through counseling, a small group or even build your own support network. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has the information you need online to get Help Yourself. You can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or dial 9-1-1 for your local emergency services. Please know you are not alone. You are valuable. God does love you. There is help.