Call handler opens up about how he saved a man's life
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A 22-year-old call handler has opened up about how he stayed on the phone with a man for two hours to save his life.
Back in November 2019, former despatcher Jay Amarsi took a call from a man who was considering taking his own life.
It was just five minutes before the end of his shift, but Jay stayed at work for more than two hours to find out who the man was, where he was, and what help he needed.
Speaking about the incident, Jay said: “I’ve been with the force since January 2017 as a 17-year-old, and this is one call that has, and will, stick with me forever. I honestly think about it every day.
"Your training can never prepare you for something like this. I was on autopilot, thinking about how I could calm him down and get as much information out of him as possible.
"I was talking rubbish to him to be honest, talking about anything and everything. I asked what he had for dinner that day, asked if there was anything I could do. He was up and down, and I wanted to help him to see there was a way out."
Almost two hours into the call, negotiators were called to come and work with Jay. They sat next to him in our Force Control Room and Jay asked if they wanted to take control of the call, and they said no.
In that time Jay had been building trust and a rapport with him and in his words, ‘knew him better than anyone else at that time.’
The National Police Air Service was called and a helicopter was dispatched, and when the man realised it was up looking for him he was panicked.
At this point, he did something very unpredictable, he hung the phone up on Jay.
Remembering this moment, Jay said: “When he did that, there was nothing I could do. I tried to ring him again, and he didn’t answer, so the negotiators said to text him. I wanted to show him I wasn’t a robot so I used my name, which I never usually do. I wanted him to know who I was and that I cared. He just needed someone to talk to.”
The man replied to the texts and answered when Jay rang him again. In time, a team of officers on the ground successfully found him.
When asked about how the call left him feeling, Jay said: “It’s a part of the job that people may not know about and it is one of the most awful parts of the job - of everything you deal with, you don’t get to find out what happened. We don’t look on police systems to find updates where there is no policing purpose to do so.
"I remember getting in my car, and just sitting there for five minutes, blank. I took a longer route home so I could have more time to think and there was one point where I had to pull up, turn the engine off, and just took a massive breath and had to tell myself he is going to be ok.
“In policing, no matter where you work, you carry this suitcase of rubbish. Whether it’s someone swearing at you on the phone, calling you names, threatening to kill you. You deal with everyone’s issues, domestics, thefts… But I think about that bloke every day, and I’ve not met him. I only know his name but I think about him every day, think about everything he told me.”
Call Handlers don't receive specialist training in dealing with these kinds of incidents.
This was Jay, doing what was needed to save a man’s life.
He said: “The training you receive at the start of the job, it’s not so much about what to say on the call, but more about the policies. How you deal with someone on the phone varies, as long as you’re courteous, polite and respectful, you’re onto a winner.”
Only recently did Jay get the news that he had been put forward for a Chief Constable’s Commendation for his involvement in this incident.
He said: “I was really happy to be nominated, but to me I was just doing my job. If someone is upset, if they’re angry, they will make a rash decision. Sometimes you just need an outlet, someone to talk to or rant at, and that’s all I gave him. I don’t see it as I saved his life.
“You don’t join the job for recognition, you do it to serve the public, make sure you protect people. In my career, I still go by the fact that one of the biggest things I do is detect crime, deter criminals, and protect the vulnerable. Sometimes there doesn’t need to be any crime, we can just deal with the vulnerable and make sure they are safe.”
Officers were able to find the man and took him to hospital where he was supported by the Mental Health team.
Jay is now working within the Force Intelligence Bureau.
He said: “For men to talk about their feelings, it is very hard, so for him to know he wasn’t alone is really what helped him. Everyone goes through tough times, I’ve been through them. You just have to keep going because you never know what is around the corner. I was just trying to let him know he wasn’t alone, he wasn’t the only one having tough times.
"Everyone has a story to tell and you don’t know what that story is, so just be kind.”