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Saving Lives On The Lifeline

Thursday, September 10, 2015

By Julie Peticca, Director, MCES Crisis Department

It has been just over two years since MCES became part of the SAMAHA-funded National Suicide Lifeline Network. MCES is one of almost 170 hotlines and crisis centers taking calls to 1-800-273-TALK.

The MCES Crisis Center is the only network member in the metro-Philadelphia area operating 24/7 and consequently we receive most of the calls made on phones with 215, 610, 267, and 484 area codes. Last month, we took two such calls that demonstrate the value of the Lifeline and good crisis intervention skills.

Paul Butler, Assistant Director, of the MCES Crisis Department, was working the overnight one week helping to train a new employee. He took a Lifeline call from a gentleman who happened to be in Montgomery County ("in county" Lifeline calls are rare). The man was suicidal, intoxicated, and sitting in a field with a gun. Paul spent over an hour and half on the phone with this individual supporting him and talking him out of making a fatal decision. Meanwhile, the other personnel on duty that night, Ed Hinson, RN, Reuben Ray, and Brian Cline, EMT, were in contact with County Radio (911) to help locate the patient and dispatch aid. Paul kept the caller engaged until he was found by the Pennsylvania State Police. Troopers secured the caller's weapon. The MCES EMS Crew (305) also responded to the scene and the individual was brought to MCES for evaluation and subsequently admitted.

Alcohol and suicidality are a lethal combination and could have produced a fatality that night. However, that individual used the Lifeline to seek help. We are very proud of the efforts of Paul, Ed, Reuben, and Brian that early morning when no one else was available. They did well what we and other crisis centers do often.

Just the following week, our staff was involved in another "save" on the Lifeline characterized by similar excellent teamwork. Tracy Halliday, MSW, took a call from a 19-year old threatening suicide. Tracy used her intervention skills to build rapport with the caller and was able to get him to disclose his location in Bucks County. Brice Johnston, who was working with Tracy that night, got in touch with 911 in that county and local police came to his aide. Good job by both Tracy and Brice.

All MCES crisis staff have had experiences like these and most pass unnoticed because that's just what we do. That may be true but efforts like these should also be highlighted because they show how and why suicide is preventable and the essential role of crisis services.

The National Suicide Lifeline Facebook page notes "Hope is a call away." It takes hope to reach out for help when you are troubled by serious suicidal thoughts. It takes hope to stay on the line and listen to a total stranger whose skills may be all that stands between you and losing your life to suicide. The Lifeline delivers on that hope by linking resources like MCES and our crisis staff to individuals at-risk.

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Suicide Prevention