I answered the phone like the thousands of 911 calls before. My body responded to the frantic woman on the other end of the line and sat straight up at attention.
“My daughter’s boyfriend wants to kill himself.” Her voice cracked and her statement came out as a plea for help.
Almost mechanically, I took charge of the call, asking the “who, what, where’s” needed to create a detailed call for service that everyone from the officer being dispatched, to the paramedic enroute could understand.
A middle-aged gentleman had locked himself in his bathroom. When his girlfriend couldn’t talk him out of putting down the handgun, she had called her mother to come over to help her. Depressed over financial shortfalls, a custody battle, and the myriad of discouragement life sometimes brings, his mental anguish was at a breaking point.
To be honest, I’d taken many of these calls before—too many to count, really. It would sadden the average person to know suicidal callers are a common occurrence. Throughout my twenty-year career, I had prided myself in the ability to distract and do whatever I could to keep someone on the line long enough for help to arrive.
I wouldn’t be able to say the same about this one. Within minutes, the shot rang out.
Staying on the phone with women who were witness to tragedy, I calmed them the best I could. I asked questions to avert them from the carnage while police and fire arrived.
The next day, I was approached by a sergeant at work. He was responsible for debriefing men and women in our police department. “Debriefing is a specific technique designed to assist others in dealing with the physical or psychological symptoms that are generally associated with trauma exposure. Debriefing allows those involved with the incident to process the event and reflect on its impact.” Basically, it’s a time to allow the parties involved in a critical incident to share the details of the event, and gives the emergency services person the ability to vent emotions attached to the experience.
“Joanne, how are you doing?” My sergeant asked. “You know, we listened to your call at our staff meeting. We all thought you did a wonderful job. Even the chief was complimentary.” He encouraged.
“It was tough. I had a hard night last night.” Remembering how my tears came fast and easy when I shared the story with my husband, Paul, after work. “But, I think I’ll be fine.” I meant what I said and smiled.
“Do you know why you’re going to be fine?” I had no idea where he was going with this question, or how he wanted me to answer. “Because you know the very One where hope and purpose meet.”
His words pierced my heart. I do know the very One where hope and purpose meet.
Christmas can be a melancholy time. When the focus is on family, and gift-giving, the spotlight is also on broken relationships and financial pressures. It’s not long before many are caught up in the heartache and depression sinks in for the long haul.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
•Every 14.6 minutes someone in the United States dies by suicide.
•Nearly 1,000,000 people make a suicide attempt every year.
•90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.
•Most people with mental illness do not die by suicide.
•Recent data puts yearly medical costs for suicide at nearly $100,000,000.00 (2005)
•Men are nearly 4 times more likely to die by suicide than women. Women attempt suicide 3 times as often as men.
Here are a few teen suicide statistics:
•Suicide is the third leading cause of death for teens.
•Suicide is second leading cause of death in colleges.
•For every suicide completion, there are between 50 and 200 attempts.
Do you know the very One where hope and purpose meet? If you do, take the time to pray for those who are hurting this holiday season. Ask God to show you where you can help someone with a phone call, a card, a bag of groceries.
Suicide is a painful decision that too many make. Grief is almost unbearable for those left behind, questioning and wondering how they missed the signs or if they could have possibly made a difference.
Christmas is a reminder of what God did for us. Take the time to show someone the very One where hope and purpose meet. Remember, God sent His son into our world for His divine purpose—hope.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
Chris Pedersen says
I remember how distraught you were the following morning. God works to bring His children to His center when we find ourselves thrown off kilter with the world’s woes. I’ve seen it a lot lately in my chaotic world.
Warren Baldwin says
These are very sobering statistics, and sad ones. Thanks for sharing. And wonderful job on how you handled the phone call.
Remember the picture you used on my blog for your guest article? I am wondering if I can use it for a post Sunday. Here is the picture: http://warrenbaldwin.blogspot.com/2011/11/guest-marriage-post-joanne-kraft.html
I can put a link on it to your blog.
Warren Baldwin says
BTW, the article with this pic will post Dec. 18 (Sun). I will be on the road. So, if you’d rather me not use it, I will pull it as soon as I can.
We have a daughter graduating from Harding in Searcy, AR with a master’s degree in education. Then she gets married on Jan. 7. Our first one.
Joanne…wow. I cannot imagine what you had to deal with–but I know YOU know the ONE who never leaves us nor forsakes—and is especially near in times like these—oh Joanne.
My heart aches for what you hear everyday–yet we KNOW that God put you in that very spot for HIS PURPOSE.
You are a light in dark places…and the “girlfriend”….will long remember the sound of your voice.
I love you friend. You are in my prayers.