No Second Chance: Handling Suicidal Callers in Dispatch

No Second Chance: Handling Suicidal Callers in Dispatch
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Module 1
Recorded on: 2020-09-03
Unit 1 Slide Deck: No Second Chance
Unit 2 Transcript: No Second Chance
Unit 3 Workbook: No Second Chance
Unit 4 Recording: No Second Chance

Dispatchers are the very frontline of the public safety sector. They play a critical role in response as they’re the first ones who get information on what’s happening and determine the type of resources to employ to the calls for service they receive. One of the most delicate types of calls they handle are suicide calls – be it from the person contemplating suicide, a concerned third party who wants to prevent a loved one from doing so, or the most painful – having to report a completed suicide. This session aims to explain what motivates a person to such thoughts and practical tips on how to handle suicide callers in dispatch.

The instructors for this webinar are Amy Morgan and Halcyon Frank. Amy Morgan is the Founder and Director of Academy Hour, which provides mental health support and leadership courses to public safety agencies. She is a mental health trainer, certified Applied Suicide Intervention Skills trainer, and Question-Persuade-Refer trainer. Meanwhile, Halcyon Frank is the Founder of Dispatch Lab, which provides training and support to those working in dispatch. She is a full-time dispatcher for law, fire and EMS, is an active member of the National Emergency Number Association, and serves as a keynote speaker in dispatch conferences across the US.

Topics they discussed in this course are:

  • The things, circumstances, and perceptions that drive an individual to suicide ideation.
  • The concept of the suicidal mind which creates mental fog and tunnel vision on how to resolve one’s problems.
  • Why people tend to hide things they struggle with which then causes other people to feel completely blindsided if they do commit or attempt suicide.
  • The preparation required for a person to overcome their survival instincts and decide on taking their own life.
  • The risk factors, underlying causes, and common stressors that may contribute to suicide ideation.
  • Suicide prevention and intervention methods.
    • Red flags to watch out for that may be observed in an individual contemplating suicide.
    • The value in listening to relieve an individual of the pressure and weight they’ve been carrying.
    • Different resources available to connect with and reach out to to help someone struggling with their life, stress, and problems.
  • Pointers that dispatchers must be wary of and pay critical attention to when handling suicide callers.
    • The best intervention dispatchers can give by keeping the suicidal person on the line to delay potential harm and provide needed support and resources.
    • Guidelines to best assist third-party callers concerned for the safety of their loved ones.
    • Providing assistance to an individual reporting a suicide that has been completed by taking into account crime scene management as well as the caller’s mental well-being.
    • Pro-tips to locate a caller who doesn’t want to/did not provide their location.
  • The critical incident stress management and mental health support that dispatchers must seek after handling suicidal calls.

Questions from the audience were about:

  • How those working in a different branch of the public safety or criminal justice system can ensure that the people who asked for their help are properly referred to the appropriate resources.
  • Why asking whether someone is thinking of ending their life is not creating additional harm and getting leadership/administration to understand this concept.
  • What aspects must change when responding to a teen caller vis-à-vis an adult caller.
  • Dealing with the burden/guilt of not being able to recognize signs of suicide ideation in a colleague/loved one.
  • Communication channels that may be used to provide the needed support that the caller prefers.


This is part of a two-part series:


Audience Comments

  • “I learned a few more signs and signals to be aware of for people considering suicide.” — Maclane
  • “As a manager, this was beneficial to gather a different perspective on the approach to understanding suicidal callers.” — Amanda
  • “People are really good at hiding what they don’t want you to know. So true, yet a basic concept. Thank you again!” — Amanda
  • “This was a great webinar the information on how to handle a 3rd party was great that information was very helpful.” — Brigit
  • “Very informative. Both speakers seemed confident in their knowledge and were very well prepared. I was surprised at the number of agencies that presently do not train for handling suicidal callers or incidents.” — Christopher
  • “Great information from both presenters! Sometimes presenters don’t mesh well, but they really complimented each other well with the information they provided! Hope there will be more webinars on this topic soon!” — Ember
  • “I am very excited that JCH is having these kinds of training! The presenters were excellent and had solid, research-based information on individuals who are suicidal and best response practices. Definitely was more introductory based and would like to have further training on this topic that is more advanced for seasoned first responders.” — Genny
  • “Each presenter gave a wealth of information. … Some of the information given today helped me to understand the thought process better of a person considering suicide.” — Karla
  • “I love how we are trying to change the stigma around mental health and webinars like this really do make a difference.” –Katharine
  • “I like the way they divided the caller from the 3rd party caller, and what questions to ask. The speaker mentioned having empathy and I think that is very important, especially in this 2020 society, we forget to do this.” — Kim
  • “This was an excellent topic. Everyone needs to be aware of how to handle this kind of situation because we never know when we’re going to need that.” — Mauri
  • “Very helpful. Somehow we need to reduce the stigma. Many professionals (doctors, EMS, probation officers, law enforcement, etc) struggle with suicide and carry the stigma on both sides (they struggle with it themselves and they hear fellow team members criticizing and judging clients for suicidal ideations). This makes it difficult for officers to speak up about their own struggles. Spreading awareness (what you are doing) and reducing stigma will help.” — Nichole


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