Webinar presenters Amy Morgan and Halcyon Frank answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Life-Saving Partners: 911 and Suicide Lifelines Working Together. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: What is the protocol if the caller tells you that they have a weapon in their possession and plan on using it?
Amy Morgan: Protocol for both suicide lines or crisis lines differs by the crisis line, but it is basically to call 911, and that is to save that life. Its do is to prevent someone from ending a life, and so we would call 911 and ask to try to get some help. Some crisis lines don’t do that. I want to be transparent about that. Some, there are some crisis lines, which is depending on where it is or which one you call that don’t send, don’t just fetch anyone, no matter what. They do their best to try to work with the person right there on the phone and they’re completely anonymous. And that’s a lot for the first responder crisis lines to separate them. But from the typical crisis line, it is, if you think someone’s life is immediately in danger, and then you, then we would call 911 dispatch.
Halcyon Frank: Yeah, and from the dispatch perspective, as I said, we’re going to ask a lot of questions, and we may ask about weapons. But if you know if that’s something they’ve explicitly said, you know, that’s always something we prefer them to be set upfront. Not just because, you know, that kind of changes as far as response, but also, we can make sure that that is absolutely communicated to our field responders. Sometimes, as you get into the more questions, just human, you know, mistakes, things may get lost, or we shift gears to focus on something else as far as finding them. So, yeah, if you do get a call where they say that, that’s something we highly appreciate it as I mentioned right in the beginning so that way, we can let those field responders know.
Audience Question: Is it okay for a crisis line worker to lie? If a suicidal color becomes suspicious or catches on that they’re trying to get information so someone can be dispatched to their location?
Amy Morgan: The goal is to save a life. Now, I’m not a proponent in my personal life of lying or my professional life of lying. And I would have to look at it differently here. The goal is to save someone’s life. And if they say, “Are you sending someone, you’re not sending someone, are you?” If you are sending someone you just, I mean, it’s a personality thing and you’re going to have to avoid the question or evade the question or answer the question. It’s a risk you take, but the goal is to save a person’s life. So, in my own suicide interventions have definitely not told the truth on things if somebody said you’re not sending an officer to my house, are you? You know, I’ll just say, look, I’m talking to you. I’m trying to talk to you. Let’s, let’s work this out. I really want to see what I can to help do what I can to help. I’m here to help you. I want to save your life. And a lot of times, I have found that they’ll tell me, you know, afterward, then, like, I know, you were sending some, I knew you were sending someone and then they’re like, and that’s okay, I needed help. Like they. It’s almost like, please don’t send help, and then in the back of their mind they’re going, I hope they’re sending someone. The answer as to whether you lie or not is a trick.
Halcyon Frank: Yes, I would not say, “Yes. You should lie.” I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, But you could always look from the perspective. If you’re the crisis text line, you’re not sending anyone. You’re calling 911. You know, at 911 does from that point, is on 911. But as of right now, as a crisis text line, you’re not sending anyone. You don’t dictate if somebody gets dispatched.
Host: And it is, it is. But I can see that dilemma coming up.
Amy Morgan: Oh, for sure. It definitely does. And I, and you know. Like, how sounds like she’s like, I am, I am not, you’re right. I’m not sending someone, but I have told someone who can send somebody.
Halcyon Frank: I really try to, I try to avoid the question, but it is one of those where I have found that if you don’t send someone, they’d like. Well, I was hoping you weren’t. Because otherwise, I think you didn’t care. But at the same time, people do panic and you don’t want to promote panic by saying someone’s on their way, you better put the gun down when they’re on their way. And that gives me a minute and thirty seconds to make a decision, and then you don’t want that, you don’t have that pressure. And I think that’s what she’s asking about.
Audience Question: Can you recommend precautions to both safeguard yourself and staff that might be struggling after a particularly impactful call?
Amy Morgan: So, from the crisis line, I, and as an assistant interventionist and as someone who trains counselors, anybody who deals with the difficult things like this, suicide calls and so forth should debrief afterward, if possible, and should be in counseling yourself. Anybody in a responder role who’s dealing with anything of this at this level of difficulty and emotional intensity should be in counseling regularly. And if you have a regular relationship with the counselor, then you’re not trying to build a rapport and get through the intake in the assessment when something happens, and you have to go for three times to get through the basics that you already have a relationship with a counselor. And then when you have a difficult incident, a difficult call, whatever it is, then you just go to your regular counseling appointment, and say, “Man, this week, I had a call it’s sticking with me.” I definitely think you should not keep that to yourself. You should not just hold it in and go to the next call. Do debriefing. Talk to your peers who understand, who gets it, and absolutely get mental support in some way.
Halcyon Frank: I would just second what Amy said as well as if you’re in a leadership position. If you’re in a position to, you know, create the culture of after a difficult call, even if you don’t feel like it affected you for some type of debriefing or, you know, the culture where therapy is a regular part of the people there, you know, they’re going to it. That’s really a big thing. You don’t want anybody to feel, stigmatized or anything like that for reaching out for help.
Amy Morgan: Right. Exactly.
Audience Question: Halcyon, this question is definitely for you, it’s referencing that class that you’ve included as a handout, which is. What are you saying, giving effective feedback, virtual class? Is there a coupon code, or something else that they should use, and they sign-up, or would you like to connect with that person directly? It’s up to you.
Halcyon Frank: I can just They can send me an e-mail. That’s just that the flyer, and then the link is included, as well for that class.
Audience Question: How did you get around the cell phone carriers’ exigent circumstances rules? I’m assuming when you’re asking for location on a mobile device.
Halcyon Frank: That one’s a little trickier. It would, it’s kind of situational and depending on the company, in my experience, and that’s all I can speak to. And so, I don’t want to put any, you know, black or white answers. But, when you call, they’re going to ask you what the circumstances are. If it’s a suicidal person? You know, if you know if this person is suicidal if they’ve made threats to harm themselves. Yeah, that’s, it’s kind of just dependent, and like I said, you do have to be careful because there are some times where, you know, it may be something that you’re actually going to have to get a warrant. You know, if it doesn’t fall under their circumstances, whatever their threshold or list is, that’d be something you can definitely reach out to providers ahead of time. I would hope that there’s somebody that, you know, can speak with dispatchers, as far as how that works on their end. And that may be something to that’s, you know, on additional training for your center. If you could connect with someone in the cell phone provider industry, that can maybe shed some light on that.
Host: What I really appreciated that you said is that, you know, reach out to your cell phone companies, now, figure out what that protocol is, figure out what the processes now for before that call happens.
Halcyon Frank: Yes.
Audience Question: I’m a certified hostage negotiator, and they tell us to never speak about clergy because that is oftentimes their last moment request. Many will want to do a prayer prior to killing themselves in an effort to be somewhat saved. Do either of you have thoughts on that? Is that something you’ve heard? Any kind of feedback?
Amy Morgan: I think it’s different in a hostage negotiation situation or in that sort of thing because that is the, “Yes. I want my priest here for the last —–” Well, that’s not the same. And that is a request that is sometimes a that I’m about to do this. Can you send, you know, my priest, and in the medical examiner or whatever? I always mentioned it in a list of resources. Do you have someone you can talk to next time you’re feeling this way? And so, it’s not, like, who do you want to talk to now at this moment, because that’s you, at that moment. I listed as, who can you talk to you next time you’re needing someone to listen to you, next time you’re needing someone to talk to. And so, I listed in that, you know, as part of the list of people that you trust, that will listen that can also connect you with other resources for ongoing help, and so that we can save your life in that way.
Halcyon Frank: I would just again, second what Amy said. And in my experience, it’s usually in that list, you know, kind of who? It may come up. You know if you’re firsthand or if you’re a crisis text line or a dispatcher, talking to a suicidal firsthand. It may come up in a topic is how you build rapport. But as far as just like offering it out there, I don’t know that I’ve ever had that my experience and it’s very much more of, you know, it’s in that list of who can, who can you reach out to? Who can you talk to? Or, you know, unfortunately, after maybe someone has completed it, a third party someone. You know, who’s left behind? Is the one looking for that assistance.
Audience Question: Halcyon, you talked about this scenario where you might end up needing a warrant if that goes over 24 hours. Can you talk a little bit more about the scenario, in which case, in which case that occurs?
Halcyon Frank: I haven’t personally had that situation. I just, in my experience, that’s what I’ve been told from cell phone companies. That’s usually, I can’t think of which company it is off of my head. But there are cell phone providers that will just send you an e-mail. Every so often, they will you know, they’ll keep this e-mail out to you with the coordinates once you’ve done that initial legwork to ping a phone. And I believe the limit is 24 hours. But you know, in this job, in this industry, never say never. Never say never, that it won’t happen. I personally have not had that exact scenario happen.
Audience Question: Many people who have lived experience with past suicide ideation, and don’t want 911 calls based on a past negative experience with public safety officials. This can be especially true for disenfranchised and marginalized communities. So, she would love to know, what experiences and thoughts do you have on callers that say specifically say they don’t want police dispatched.
Halcyon Frank: This is a tricky one. And again, I don’t, you know, want to go on record saying you should do X, Y, and Z, and that’s how you should handle it. I think sometimes as Amy said, it comes down to, you’re trying to save a life. And I can, you know, appreciate people’s hesitation and what they may not want, because of prior experiences. And I think it’s just an individual case by case basis. Whether your crisis text line or, you know, dispatch or taking that call, you know, it may just be an individual situation call where you have to decide what’s, you know, going to be the best response as far as connecting them to resources or sending law enforcement. You know, what’s the intervention look like? So, I don’t know that there is anyone answer, but I think in our role is what it comes down to is saving a life, and we have to determine what’s the best way, or what, you know, might be the most so effective way that looks like.
Amy Morgan: I’ll go ahead and maybe the opportunity for them to have a different experience. Again, you go back to always, you’re doing what you have to save a life and you don’t necessarily do what they’re saying. At that moment they don’t have clarity of mind. If you’re thinking of suicide and your thoughts aren’t clear, you may be thinking, this is what I want to do. I’m calling you for help, but I don’t want you to send help, which is basically what that statement is. I’m calling you for help, but I don’t want you to send anybody. Because I had a bad experience they may have, is may, I know, you know, enough officers and as in and so forth, that would come responders that would go there. That could give them a very different experience. They may have had that rare bad experience but this is an opportunity for them to have a better experience because I know that there are enough responders that are going to give a good experience with that and respond in an appropriate way. And it’s an opportunity for their experience to change and to save a life
Halcyon Frank: And those field responders are definitely approaching it differently than maybe what that prior experience was. You know, it’s going to be a different approach.
Host: That makes a ton of sense.
Audience Question: Is there a resource of, is there a resource that crisis helplines can turn to for a set of standard protocols? Or does each organization typically need to craft their own protocols?
Amy Morgan: I would, I would look for the if you’re at a crisis line, and you’re wanting to develop protocols, I would do research, basically talk to other crisis lines. You’d be, typically networked together with people who are in the same job as you. Call the executive directors, of the national or local non-profit organizations that run the crisis lines. And ask them what their protocols are. Ask them what they’ve had good luck using. Ask them what’s tried and true. Do some research when you’re developing your protocols, rather than just winging it and hoping it works. I would really do really network with people that you can, they can get feedback and say, “Hey, we’ve used something that’s working, do you guys use this?” Or, “We have this question, we can’t seem to get an answer. Do you guys have a solution to this? Do you guys have a process? What are your criteria for when to call 911?” I would really network with many of you know, you’ve watched this webinar. We’ve touched on things, but I would really just dig in and build a network of people that you can pick up the phone and be like. We had a call today, and we didn’t have a protocol for it, do you guys? And then see what’s working for other people.
Halcyon Frank: And I would just, it’s, I mean, it’s similar to dispatch, you know, definitely if you’re maybe a newer crisis line or just maybe you haven’t developed as much on the side of protocols, you know, don’t feel like you need to re-invent the wheel. Reach out to those other ones, just kind of see again what they said, you know, what’s working, what’s not worked, and that kind of thing. So that way, you know, save yourself a lot of time and stress.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Life-Saving Partners: 911 and Suicide Lifelines Working Together.