"Several months ago, an elderly gentleman called 2-1-1 in need of counseling. As I spoke with the man, I quickly realized that he needed more than counseling, he needed someone to talk him out of suicide. When he finally admitted that he was seriously thinking of taking his own life, I quickly turned to my sheet of policies and procedures for suicide calls and tried to transfer him to the crisis line, but he insisted that he didn’t want to talk to anyone but me.
As we spoke, I realized that a piece of paper couldn’t tell me about this man – his thoughts, his fears, what his cat’s name was, what, if anything made him happy, and what made him sad. So, I began to talk to him on a more personal level. I tried to help him identify something in his life he could be happy about. It took a long time, as he said he had no one in his life. I later found out he had a cat named Ringo, and a brother he never spoke to.
He continuously repeated, “Nobody cares if I’m dead or alive.” I said, “I do, sir. And I think your cat would miss you too.” To him, the cat and I were the only two living creatures that cared about him.
Again, I tried to transfer him to the crisis line, but he didn’t want to speak to them. I continued to encourage him, reminding him that he had a place and purpose in this world, even if he hadn’t found it yet. He reluctantly argued as I continued to point out things in his life that made it worth living. About an hour later, he was comfortable talking to someone on the crisis line. I gave him referrals to mental health services, and together we called the crisis center.
The rest of the week I couldn’t help thinking about the gentleman, wondering what had happened to him. The following week I received a phone call from him, thanking me and the 2-1-1 hotline for saving his life. “I never met anyone who believed in me before,” he said, “till now.” He shared with me that he had gotten in touch with his brother, and was having dinner with him that very night. He said he hadn’t intended on calling 2-1-1 and definitely not sharing the fact that he was thinking about taking his own life - but he said he was glad he did." ---2-1-1 Community Specialist