A true story ...
"i cnt do this no more i wanna give up"
The words leapt off the screen at me from my inbox. It was just another night up until then, puttering away on my blog, but this changed everything. What to do? I could have simply directed the person to one of the many resources on HNWS, but something about the message wouldn't allow me to do that. I responded with an offer to listen, and thus began a long night and part of the next day trying to help a complete stranger in desperate need of a friend.
I'm not a crisis counselor, but I know where to find one just about anywhere in the world. I tried to convince the girl to call a local crisis line, to no avail. All I knew was I had to keep her talking, any way possible. A person talking is too busy to hurt themselves, I figured. Meanwhile, I put out a call for help across Facebook
® and Twitter®.
"Is anyone out there in New Zealand? Do you have a FB friend there? Please message me ASAP..."
I didn't have to wait long for an answer. The response was immediate and profoundly helpful.
People across the world started notifying friends and friends of friends, swiftly locating a handful of people in her country. I had determined the young lady's general location from a simple check of her Facebook® Timeline, and assumed from her fluent use of "Textish" that she was probably a teenager or not much older. Not a lot to work with, so I just tried to keep her engaged in conversation while I wracked my brain trying to figure out what to do.
"i cnt im startin 2 break dwn an cry an i wanna shut my body down an just die"
This was getting scary. She wasn't very responsive to my attempts to get her to call for help, but at least she was answering. The first thing I knew I could do was to report her comments to Facebook's Suicidal Content Reporting page. Facebook® responded swiftly with a list of crisis line phone numbers in her area and some good advice about how to deal with the situation. Meanwhile, lots of other people started sending me helpful advice. Some had looked up phone numbers for police and emergency responders in the girl's town, so far away on the other side of the world. Others encouraged my efforts, and spread the call for help further across the web. One wonderful lady I went to school with many years ago even offered her phone number, just in case the girl would feel more comfortable confiding in a woman.
"im just feelin so useless coz im bein bullied at skool an the teachers have done nothin"
Eventually, I got her talking a bit about her problems. She was being bullied at school, and her home life was worse. I convinced her to let me try to encourage her school to respond to her problems. She began to come around, and offered to keep me updated on how things were going at school, ( which suggested to me that she was thinking of the future, a very good sign ), so I gave her an email address she could reach me at. Things seemed to be getting better.
I had worked a twelve hour shift that day, and it was getting close to two thirty in the morning, but I was too concerned to sleep. She had told me her older sister was about to come home, so when she didn't respond for about forty five minutes, I assumed her sister had arrived. I let everyone monitoring the situation know that things seemed to be calming down and thanked them all for their help.
I went to bed, and collapsed into a fitful sleep for a few hours. I was in for a shock in the morning.
"okay im like freakin out"
Something had gone bad, she was losing control again. The messages were getting more and more troubling, and nothing I said seemed to help. I then recalled a piece of advice from Facebook® and others on-line about calling the local police. Well, why not? I checked the police phone numbers that people from her country had sent me, but none worked. I was stunned, but not defeated. I decided to call my local police in the hope that they might be able to contact other police around the world. The officer I spoke to was incredibly helpful, and we decide she should connect me with the RCMP, ( Canada's national police force ), since they routinely communicated with other countries' police forces. The RCMP detachment in London Ontario was similarly concerned, and after confirming that the listed contact numbers didn't work, took it to the next level - Interpol.
Before I knew it, I was on the line with an officer in the young lady's home town, reporting my concerns. The local officer I spoke to took the matter very seriously, so after confirming my identity with the RCMP, ( they were still on the line with me ), she started a search for the girl's address. It took no more than five minutes to find her. The officer thanked me for my help and told me a cruiser was being dispatched to the address immediately. It had taken close to an hour to work through the process of contacting them, and after all the stress and worry, I could finally relax a bit, knowing that the authorities were handling the situation.
Was this a hoax, as one or two people suggested? Anything's possible, but I doubt it. I believe we all made a difference in a young person's life. From the friends and strangers on-line to the police officers involved, we all helped. We might even have saved a life. The internet can be a dark and dangerous place at times, and the world can be lonely for some, but there's now no doubt in my mind that good people can use the net for more noble purposes, even to the point of saving a life on the other side of the world.
Thanks again to all of you out there that cared enough to respond, you made a difference!