Calling 911

Published: January 11, 2013
Dear TeenHealthFX,

Hello you guys. I love that you always get back to my questions. You guys are really helpful. <3 But what I've noticed when I read most of answer to questions from suicidal/depressed teens is that you put at the end of the answer to "call 911" if they really do think they are going to do suicide or do something else. What will the police say when you tell them that you are close to attempting suicide? What if they don't believe you and you are charged with misuse of the 911 hotline? Will they help you to a registered therapist? Thanks for the help, just curious. :)

Dear Calling 911,

Thank you for the compliment. It is gratifying to know we have been of help.

When a reader writes in who is significantly depressed or struggling with suicidal ideation, TeenHealthFX will add:

“If you get to the point that you are seriously considering suicide or are afraid of your impulses then you need to seek help immediately. You can call 911 or go to your nearest hospital emergency room. In northern New Jersey you can also call the crisis hotline from Atlantic Health at 973-540-0100. Outside this area call the Suicide & Crisis Hotline, 1-800-999-9999, 24 hours, 7 days a week”

The reason we do this is because we are not a live site and cannot provide immediate feedback to someone in crisis. However, we want to make it clear to the reader that there are immediate options they can access if they are afraid they may act on an impulse.

911 is used for emergencies and someone seriously considering ending their life is an emergency. When the police respond, their main concern is for the safety of everyone involved. In the case of a suicidal person that means working with emergency service workers to make sure the person gets the proper attention they need, including helping get the person to the hospital if needed. A police officer is there to help, not to assess the person’s mental status any more than a mental health professional would try and stop a robbery.

When you dial 911 there can be a number of professionals who respond to any given situation. As we have seen in recent media events these are dedicated people who are truly invested helping others. What is very frustrating for them is when they are called out for a fictitious emergency. Using 911 in a prank or for non emergency situations is illegal and can be dangerous. The people responding are trying to make it to the scene as quickly as possible because time is a huge factor in an emergency. As a result they put themselves at risk, which they are willing to accept if someone’s life can be saved. False alarms can put people needlessly at risk, and waste manpower and resources.

If someone is experiencing a psychiatric emergency and/or wants to hurt themselves, then this is considered a legitimate emergency and a proper use of the service. The professionals involved, including the 911 operator, are trained to deal with this type of situation and the goal is everyone’s safety. There are many people out there who may not be here if it wasn’t for these dedicated people. They save lives.



Signed: TeenHealthFX