The Speech That Made a Cop Cry, And A Therapist Stand by Speechless

Some of my friends like to watch cop shows — the ones called “Police Procedurals.”  They think it is exciting to see how crimes are solved and how police interact with puzzling situations. I’ve had my encounters with the police, too.  Sometimes they are very supportive when dealing with mental patients.  Sometimes they make things worse.  I’m pleased to say that many communities now have special personnel trained in handling mental health calls, and they coordinate with caregivers well — and treat the patients with understanding and a sincere desire to help. I was called in by a therapist when a patient was chronically suicidal. The therapist had to commit the patient to a mental institution and called the police to assist. I am thankful that she also called me to try to get the patient to go along involuntarily.  When confronted by a uniformed police officer, and looking at an ambulance or police car, a patient sometimes panics. Here is what I said:
“This decision was made because we very much want you to live. For the last six months, since your friend and roommate committed suicide,  you have had chronic thoughts about doing the same thing yourself.   Although you seem to be able sometimes to think about living from one event to the next, the thought of causing your own death by your own  actions seems to be a constant companion.  Life just should not be like that. I have asked you to promise me that you have decided to stay alive.  You simply were not able to do that. You have told me that you have worked long and hard on issues that other people don’t have to work on.  It is time for you to relax a little.  It is time for you to be in a place where there are going to be nurturing  people who will relieve you of this constant burden, and help you. The decision to send you to such a place has been made with  neither malice nor anger.  It has been made because all you have lived through and all that you have fought against has made you a person of great worth, a precious human being. This decision we have made, we made because we want you to live.
The patient decided to go along peacefully, and the policeman had to wipe tears from his eyes before leading the person to the ambulance. The therapist who was in charge of the patient said nothing, but shook her head in wonder. She later told me that she and the policeman tried to reconstruct my speech so they could use it in the future to help other patients. This is my gift to them — those who help patients in pain and suffering. And my gift to patients, in hopes that they receive help from enlightened professionals like the two people involved in this intervention.


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