A frightening statistic was reported in The Republic last week. Suicide-related calls to the Bartholomew County Emergency Dispatch Center have dramatically escalated over the past three years.
Total calls from the city and the county jumped from 171 in 2010 to 277 last year. On a somewhat reassuring note, the number of actual suicides within that time frame has remained steady, approximately 11 each year.
There is no scientific correlation of these calls and the way they were handled with the actual number of times callers did not follow through on their original intentions. Some of those who did commit suicide never called the 911 number.
Nevertheless, the marked disparity between initial call and actual commission suggests that the dispatchers on the other end of the line and the first responders who had been sent to the scene have played a role in the saving of human lives.
While there should be concern about this escalation in the number of such calls, the factors behind them cover a spectrum of likely causes, ranging from the effects of substance abuse to mental illness.
What is remarkable is that these dispatchers and responders have been able to deal with such situations professionally and compassionately, in many instances talking a person out of this final act.
These calls do not draw seat-of-the-pants reactions. Dispatchers have received training in dealing with these situations, not only talking to the subject but at the same time gathering information that can be transmitted to responders who have been sent to the scene.
The responders also have gone through extensive and continuous training in dealing with people threatening to take their own lives, the primary goal being to assure that neither the subject nor anyone else is harmed or killed.
It is difficult for anyone who has not been involved in cases of this nature to truly appreciate the manner in which these dispatchers and responders handle their duties. They are truly unsung heroes.
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