This morning (3 July 2018) I got up at 6:30am, took a leisurely bath and got ready to head to work. I was actually looking forward to the work day, as it was a “Skeleton Crew” day. Basically just one person from every department has to be at the office. Although I don’t get the day off, I get to use it any day of my choosing within a year, so I count it as a win.
Being the Type-A, Punctual, early bird person that I am, I pull up to the office at 7:07am. My place is just a 4 minute drive from the office. As work doesn’t begin until 8:00am, I use the time to get my steps in and walk around the parking lot of the building. Gotta get those steps. As I pull in and park my car, I notice a man sitting on the curb near the rear of the parking lot. My office building is on an acre of land and not easily accessible by foot. There were no other cars in the parking lot. I assumed he was just a man, exhausted by the heat to wanted a place to sit down.
I’m walking for about 20 minutes when I turn the corner of the building and the man is walking towards me. He called out “you work here?” I replied “yes I do, but the office doesn’t open until 8am.” He is walking closer only about 10 feet away and he says “can you call the cops?” My heart sinks, I have no idea what this guy wants. He was wearing denim shorts and a faded black t-shirt. He was about six feet tall and weighed around 250 pounds. Being me, I already planned out a few scenarios on how to protect myself if he had sinister intentions. I did not see any obvious physical problems with him, but I did observe his anxious state, not standing still, and depressed look in his eyes. Working in public health you have to know how to read people and pick up on any cue. I asked him what was wrong, he just repeated “call the cops for me.” I asked him to wait a moment, and I walk back to my car keeping him in my sight line. I get in my car and look online to see if there is a non-emergency police number in the region to call, but there isn’t. I get back out dial 9-1-1 and walk casually back over to this guy. The 9-1-1 operator ask what’s the emergency and I explain to them the situation. They inform me an officer should arrive shortly. I approach him again, let him know that someone is on the way and ask him “so what’s going on?”
“I don’t want to live” he says beginning to cry. My heart breaks, this poor man is in so much distress. I sit down, near him and start talking to him. He wasn’t very open to going in to detail, but he was definitely experiencing deep emotions. He stops crying a bit and I introduce myself to him. He opens up a little to me and gives me his name. I had a brief counseling session with him, and in the time colleagues from my office start arriving. A few get out of their cars and look at us to examine the situation. One starts to walk over and catches my eye and ask if he could help, I tell him that were ok and thank him for his concern.
Soon, the police officer arrives, on a motorcycle. I debrief him of what I know and he start talking to the guy. He gave him a few options on seeking mental health services and he decided he would go to the local hospital, where it is voluntary and he wouldn’t be held against his will. The guy seemed satisfied with this option. I told him that I would check in with the hospital at the end of the day to see how he was doing, if he was ok with that. He said thank you and he would appreciate it. The EMT and back up officer arrived and this guy got in to the ambulance and they were off. The officers asked me a few questions and thanked me. I am so happy that this guy reached out to me. It showed that, although he might be depressed, he is trying hard to take care of his mental health.
I walked in to the lobby of the building and four women were standing there. I probably met them all on my first day, but I don’t remember any of them. They all informed me that they were watching to make sure everything was ok. Throughout the rest of the day, I had people stopping me and asking for details everywhere I went. So I shortened it to a quick elevator explanation of “a gentleman thought that since we’re the Health Department he could see a doctor here, but he got a ride with the EMT.” All of this happened before 7:45am, what a morning.
Moral of this experience: reach out for help if you need it. Help others if you can offer it.