Sitting in my kitchen, it was a little after one in the morning. I was hopped up on three cups of caffeine from my nightly Starbucks visit. I would not usually drink that much caffeine in one sitting, but I needed to get a LOT of paperwork done. Reminiscent of my college days, I took a short break from the paperwork to peruse the Book of Faces. Scrolling through my feed, a post caught my eye. It was from a Veterans Suicide Prevention Support group I joined several months ago. Anyone who knows me or follows my social media understands how close suicide prevention is to my heart. I joined several such groups months back to keep up-to-date on new information and stories regarding suicide prevention.
In this particular group though, a gentleman posted the following:
“Just took a bunch of phenobarbital. Waiting to see what happens.”
For those of you who are unaware of what “phenobarbital” is, it is a barbiturate. Doctors seldom prescribe them anymore due to their heavy duty sedative effects. They act as a central nervous system depressant. Enough of it could kill a man…
This man was going to attempt suicide. Oh my god! I looked at the time on the post, and it said that it was posted nineteen minutes ago. Just under his text, four or five other people from the group commented with, “Call 911 immediately!” He had not responded to any of them.
This was a complete stranger who posted in some random group I joined months ago. HI was not even sure if his Facebook name was his real name. How on earth am I going to get this guy the help he needs? I knew in the back of my mind though that if this guy really did take that medication, that there would not be much time before he took his own life.
I first went onto his profile and tried to see what information I could from his profile’s “About” section. I was able to see his previous employers and gain a general sense of his location from that. It also listed a few of his relatives. I listed the information I gathered under the post for the other group members to see. I then reported the post and his profile to Facebook in case a network administrator got to him before any of us could.
I called the National Suicide Prevention Hotline to see what next steps could be done. A young man answered the call. I informed him of the situation and the steps that had been taken up until this point. Unfortunately, not much could be done with the limited amount of information I had. The Facebook privacy settings prevented me from getting much more than his name and the “About” section. The young man from the hotline was at a loss unfortunately but understandably so.
I continued my sleuthing. I went back onto the Facebook profile to see if I could pull any more information from what little I could see due to privacy settings. I looked through his profile pictures. This guy looked no older than twenty-five and smiling in most of his pictures. I then saw a picture of an infant and then several more of his wedding day. This young guy had a wife and a kid. I was not going to let them live through the loss of their husband and father respectively. It was time to get into overdrive.
I looked back at the original Facebook post and provided an update on my end about reporting the post and calling the hotline. I also let the other group members following the post what information I found from his profile. A few short moments later, several individuals commented saying that they reached out to his family members from his friends list with a screenshot of the original post. Another individual was able to narrow down the young man’s address and phone numbers using his wife’s and his name through a sort of Yellow Pages website.
This was what I needed to make the phone call. This time I called the Veterans’ Suicide Prevention hotline to be greeted by the tranquil voice of another gentleman. He inquired about the situation taking place. I gave him all of the details I could. He took down my information as well to call me back with an update.
I hung up my phone, and it was nearly two in the morning. I closed my laptop, and stomped upstairs to bed.
Laying in bed for a few minutes, I worried desperately for this stranger to be okay. It reminded me. It brought me back to that point of no return and not wanting to go back. After feeling like you lost your entire world, it felt like ending it all is all you had to gain. As irrational as it sounds, it makes sense at the moment of contemplating suicide.
My phone rang with a strange number on the screen. I answered, and it was same calming voice from only a few minutes prior. He tried calling the two numbers I gave him, but there was no answer. He presented me with two options: to try calling again or connect me with the appropriate sheriff’s department in the young man’s area. I asked him for his guidance, and he proceeded to connect me with a woman at the local sheriff’s department. I rehashed the story a third time. I gave her the phone numbers and address I had as well. She informed me that she was sending out an officer to conduct a “welfare check.” She took down my information and asked if I would like to be notified of what happens. I quickly responded with, “Of course.”
The moment I got off of the phone I went back onto the support group and gave them the update. I put my head back down on my pillow. I turned on some relaxing music and closed my eyes in an effort to fall into a deep slumber. It was more of a shallow trance however. I laid there ruminating. I was worried and hoping that I called in time. I was not even sure if I gave the hotline and sheriff’s department the right name, address, or phone number. It was such a long shot.
Around three thirty in the morning, my phone startled me. With another strange number on the screen, I picked it up. It was a deep voice asking me to verify who I was. It was that of a police officer. He told me that he could not share too many details about the incident, but he acknowledged that “my friend was safe.” I expressed my gratitude for him calling me back.
I looked at the notification bar on my phone after hanging up with the officer. I saw several from Facebook. I opened up the app to see a comment on my update post to the group following the phone call to the sheriff’s department. The comment was from the young man himself who posted originally. The comment went as follows:
This is —-‘s wife. I want to thank whoever reached out. You saved his life. He is being taken to the hospital now to be watched due to the phenobarbital he took. Again, thank you so much. I’m glad he reached out to someone & you took action.
I put two and two together. The police found the young man while he was attempting to overdose on the medication. They took him to the hospital. The police must have told his wife that someone from Facebook saw his post and contacted authorities. I tagged him in the update post, and that is where his wife went onto the group through his Facebook.
I put my phone down on my night stand and laid back down. I smiled, as a tear of joy came to my eye. Through the teamwork of complete strangers, over an hour of detective work, and a phone call, this young man was alive. He was going to be okay and get the help he needed. With peace of mind, I slept through the night.
-The Caring Counselor
Side Note: If you or a loved one is contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Life at 1-800-273-8255. If you or a loved one is attempting suicide, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.