On November 20, 2011, Orlando Police Sergeant Tami Edwards confronted a woman on the top floor of a parking garage. The woman was on a narrow ledge and threatening to commit suicide. Edwards tried to help, but the woman did not want her assistance.
The number of incidents like this one have been on the rise in Florida.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, “Police are the key community gatekeepers, even more than mental-health professionals.” said Phillip Osteen, who is a professor at Florida State.
Suicide is one the leading causes of death in Florida. One out every 20 homicides is followed by a suicide.
It is challenging for police officers to deal with individuals threatening to commit suicide. Police do not always have all of the details of the situation until they arrive on the scene.
Police must also deal with the possibility that a suicidal individual might be trying to get an officer to kill them. This is known as “suicide by cop.”
Because of the increased number of suicide calls, police are getting additional training in order to better handle this situation.
Paul Quinnett, founder of the QPR Institute for Suicide Prevention, said, “We want to train police officers to do the same kind of suicide assessment as mental health professionals. They are dying to talk—literally. They want someone to hear what has happened to them. People don’t want to die. They want to live, but they don’t know how.”
The QPR Institute for Suicide Prevention offers online suicide prevention training specifically designed for police. The Orlando Police Department is considering using this course as a way for officers to receive more instruction in this sensitive area.
On November 20, 2011, Sergeant Tami Edwards needed that training. She tried to keep the woman talking as she inched closer towards her while two other officers approaching the suicidal woman from behind. The woman began to lean over the ledge, but the three officers grabbed her and pulled her back. The suicidal woman was immediately transported to a mental-health facility.
Edwards is certain that without the other two officers, she would have gone over the ledge. Edwards said, “If it was only me there, she had enough weight to probably take me with her.”