In the year 2000 an advert with the local police caught my eye. “Wanted, someone with good communication skills to join our suicide intervention team”. After some considerable thought I applied and here I am, 18 years later, still on call and still saving lives!
So what made my do it? Do you know, at the initial stage I’m not sure! I know that I’d always been interested in mankind and helping others out but this was deep. It required a lot of training and there was no pay.
Off on the first training course, 1 week of 8am till 10pm (no 9 to 5 here)! It was a pass or fail course and I’m pleased to say I passed. Now qualified I returned home to join the team. I was placed on call, with a rota of days and nights, where I was expected to respond. Restrictions on movement and location were in force, so that I could be telephoned and be expected to respond to any suitable situation. Always responding in pairs I took the back seat, allowing more qualified people to lead.
I don’t remember my fist call out. Strange how it doesn’t stick in the mind. Perhaps the training, in which one is told to distance yourself from the subject, kicked in and the mind wipes out the detail?
Two more weeks of intensive training then kicked in, allowing me to lead during interventions.
Someone’s life in your hands. How intense can a situation be? I found out over the years. I can’t count how many times I’ve been called out over the past 18 years. I’ve attended incidents in hotel rooms, bridges, car parks and high buildings. Even the top of York Minster. I’ve spoken to people by mobile phone and text, who were standing by railway lines, in hotel bedrooms or driving cars. All had suicidal intentions or thoughts and were desperate. One thing I can tell you is that it helps to talk!
Men seem to find it much harder to talk about the things they feel have gone wrong. They seem to threaten to end their lives by much more violent and physical means. Talking always helps.
I’m now a self employed training consultant. Life has changed for me. I still stay on the police rota, doing 4 or 5 “on call” periods a month. I now train conflict resolution skills (CR), lone working and self defence and how to deal with difficult situations. This takes me all over the UK, talking with both public and private sectors. The main point I’ve learnt during the 3 years I have been doing this is that stress levels among the work force are increasing. One recent company had a wellbeing survey carried out and the results showed that conflict in the workplace was the main cause of their absenteeism and stress. I was brought in to teach the team conflict resolution techniques and how to prevent conflict arising. Success! Much of the feedback showed that the techniques were easily transferable to work and home. Many delegates thought the techniques could be used with their families. Now there’s an idea!
Recognising and preventing conflict is such an important part of the working day, in so many jobs and roles, yet it is not always part of the training programme. I notice that many companies bring in such training once the problems occur. In my opinion it’s time to change! Staff wellbeing is very important. It will increase productivity, efficiency and effectiveness. It will reduce stress, absenteeism and HR issues. All these reduce costs, which to any company should make sense.
Take the NHS as an example. I work with the Leeds team. They have a mandatory 3 years refresher period for CR. Everyone goes! Should we not follow their lead? Maybe, in some circumstances, it might prevent me or the “team” being called out to save a life?
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