“Thank you for calling the Lifeline, my name is Josh.” I said. The person on the other end responded quietly and unhurried: “I want to kill myself”.
The caller was an older gentleman dealing with a strong desire to end his life. To connect with him, I listened to his reasons for dying that included severe depression and unreconciled grief. The caller had no money due to being unemployed for over a year and was constantly criticized for it by his wife. I reflected back to the caller his feelings of worthlessness, frustration, and despair.
The caller shared how his father told him to never quit, but he did not see a way out other than suicide. So I asked him if he had a plan to kill himself. The caller did have a plan and that was to shoot himself. I asked if he had access to a firearm. He said that he was outdoors with a firearm but would not disclose his location.
From being in the service, I know how veterans like their firearms. So I asked the caller what kind of firearm he had, and he responded that it was a .45. After having a cheery talk about guns, I asked the caller to unload his .45 because I was concerned for his safety. He agreed and I could hear the .45 being cleared over the phone, a sound unmistakable after spending 6 years in the infantry.
I congratulated the caller for unloading his weapon and making the first step to staying safe. I told him the next step would be contacting a counselor. The caller agreed to leave the weapon unloaded and the ammunition in a different location and to contact the local counseling agency I had referred. The caller expressed his gratitude to me for listening to his pain and helping him make the decision to continue living another day.
This is just one story of many of the high risk calls we receive on the Military Helpline and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The staff and volunteers of Oregon Partnership are real life superheroes who save lives every day.