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How To Handle A Suicide Call: ‘911 Crisis Center’ Dispatcher Helps Young Mom In Crisis

From life-or-death threats to wild turkeys, 911 dispatchers are trained to handle any situation.

Melanie and Essence featured in 911 Crisis Center

At Chagrin Valley Dispatch, a Cleveland-area communications hub covered in the Oxygen docuseries “911 Crisis Center,” every call can be a matter of life and death.

In an episode of the show, airing Saturdays at 9/8c, that immediately became clear when a young woman having a mental health crisis reached out.

“I’m outside Dunkin’ Donuts. I have a knife and I’m ready to kill myself,” the woman is heard telling dispatcher Matt Reinke. 

With a year of experience and keen instincts, Reinke kept his cool. He determined that the caller was 21 years and had given birth to a baby about 10 days earlier. 

He found out where she was and what she was wearing so emergency responders could pick her out of a crowd. Although the woman said the father of her child was in jail, Reinke helped her realize she had family members to help her. 

“You need to sit down,” he told her, “and put the knife down.” Help soon arrived.

“Any time you’re dealing with a suicidal caller, it’s difficult,” said Reinke. “We’re trained to focus on the instant at the time. If you can’t, then you can’t do this job.”

Later in the shift, a call came in from relatives of a woman who had recently given birth: “Today she told us she took herself to a mental hospital … We’re trying to locate the baby.”

Dispatchers realized the call involved the same woman Reinke had helped. Using the woman’s call history, Chagrin staffers led officers to a resident who lived in the same building as the woman. The baby was there — and safe. Children and Family Services was alerted to the situation by the family, according to “911 Crisis Center.” The grandparents began the process of adopting the baby.

A later call concerned an escalating dispute, while yet another was a medical emergency: A woman in a filled bathtub was having trouble breathing and the caller couldn’t get her out of the tub. The dispatcher guided the caller in how to keep the woman safe until EMS help arrived.

“You don't need a lot of water to drown,” a dispatcher explained.

Dispatchers concurred that “no call is too big or too small,” and that they’ve come to expect the unexpected. For example, during the shift, a woman reported a wild turkey in her backyard. It was “huge and scary as heck,” the caller said. 

The report was turned over to animal control. The bird in question was “still at large.”

To learn more about emergency calls and dispatchers, watch “911 Crisis Center,” airing Saturdays at 9/8c on Oxygen, or stream episodes here.

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