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Unfiltered Story #289752

, , | Unfiltered | April 24, 2023

When I was a senior in high school, decades ago before internet, cell phones, caller ID or “routine” call recording. I volunteered on a suicide prevention line, working overnights one weekend overnight a couple of times a month. Training was only one or two days, so very limited. I had blocked this from my memory but it all came flooding back recently when a friend, who didn’t know me “then,” thought they were being funny and innocently called me by a name similar to my own but exactly the nickname I’d used when I was volunteering.

We always worked in pairs, or were supposed to, so that if one of us did answer a legitimate call the 2nd could act as backup and/or call the proper authorities to send help. Most of the calls we took were prank calls (don’t do this, please) and almost all the others were people calling to ask questions about resources, not imminently suicidal. I’d never taken a call from someone in a true emergency situation until…

The person assigned as my partner was notoriously late; very seldom on time but eventually would turn up, and I thought that would be the case on the fateful night; she had not arrived. I received “the” call, a man who had been heavily drinking and had a loaded revolver, threatening to shoot himself for reasons overwhelming for him at the time but not important here. I could hear him occasionally spinning the cylinder of his gun as he ranted and cried and cursed and told me he had the gun to his head ready to end it all. There was no way for me to call for help; it would have meant putting him on hold and calling on a second line; he’d said that if I quit listening/talking with him that he’d pull the trigger. I was his lifeline, and my partner never showed up, at all.

For several hours I talked with him. Eventually he ran out of his drink of choice and sobered up enough to put the gun down and then he went to sleep, snoring loudly. I was finally able to call someone to check on him (I’d managed to gain his trust enough to get his full name, address and phone number.) Although I’d maintained my composure through the call, after it was over I turned into a blubbering basket case. It took quite awhile to pull myself into some semblance of “normal” again.

We kept logs of all calls, with details. I reported the circumstances of the night, emphasizing that I’d done it alone, to the volunteer supervisor and was basically told I’d done good and stuff happens, no big deal; he’d read my notes. No offer to partner me with someone more reliable even after I begged, no therapy, no nothing. I quit and refused to change my mind. He complained that they really needed people like me because they had such a hard time keeping volunteers. Really? I wonder why! /s

I have no idea the long term outcome for that caller, but I do hope he was able to get the help he so desperately needed.

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