Trigger warning: this blog includes a description of an attempted suicide
As the Department of Health and Social Care publishes its first ever ‘Cross-government suicide prevention plan’ this week, we spoke to Victoria Hingley, just one of our 350,000 Mental Health First Aiders, about the time she saved someone from taking their own life on her morning commute.
Approximately three months after training with Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England my company relocated my office from Coventry to the centre of Birmingham, which meant commuting to work by train every day into the very busy Birmingham New Street station.
Just two weeks into the new routine I had a couple of days planned where I would be working a later start due to childcare over the school half term holidays. This saw me arriving into New Street around an hour later than I would usually arrive, meaning that the station and platforms were much quieter than the usual morning rush.
I am a creature of habit – I get on at the same place every morning so that I can leave via the quickest street exit and get in to work easier. On this particular morning however, I got off the train and stopped on the platform for a moment, deliberating over whether to leave via a different exit so I could pick up some lunch on the way into the office. This meant the platform cleared a little and I was less ‘blinkered’ in my focus to leave.
I eventually decided to leave via my normal exit, but as I turned to do so I noticed a small group of people and what looked to be someone on the floor by the platform edge. As I got closer, I realised the person on the floor was a young man who was in clear distress and shouting at the people around him that he was about to attempt suicide.
A quick look around me told me that those watching were shocked and didn’t know what to do and that there were no staff near. Instinct kicked in – I got down on the floor behind him, wrapped my arm around his chest and quietly and calmly asked him to move back from the edge. He froze for a moment and then did as I asked and broke down.
It seemed like an age passed with events that unfolded after this, station staff and then National Rail officers arriving. I stayed with the young man through all of this, holding his hand and reassuring him, moving up from the platform to the National Rail offices to wait for the paramedics.
When it was time for me to leave, as he was going to be transferred to hospital, he gave me the biggest hug. One of the paramedics and a police officer walked out with me and told that I had saved his life, as just a few moments more of being alone on that platform could have told a very different story.
On arriving into work a few minutes later I spoke to one of my MHFA colleagues. Talking to them helped me realise that it was my training delivered by Trevor (an MHFA England instructor) that enabled me to focus and remember that for someone in distress, physical touch can be reassuring and comforting, but also importantly not to panic and keep myself safe.
It’s an event that has stuck with me and upset me for a while afterwards, but I have no doubt that I’d do the same again. I’m very grateful to WSP for its commitment to MHFA which allowed me to take the training, and also to Trevor and MHFA England for the fantastic skills they have given me.