Deputy helps save man's life thanks to mental health training

By  | 

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV) - It's not just a badge of honor: deputies want us to see it as a sign of compassion, that they are here when we need them most.

El Paso County Deputy Rachel Lamb talks with Katie Pelton.

El Paso County Deputy Rachel Lamb recently responded to a call at a local home. A man, who was suicidal, didn't want to come outside.

"I called him, instead of knocking on the door type deal, I called him and got him on the phone," Deputy Lamb told 11 News reporter Katie Pelton. "He wasn't very nice to me initially. I'm not quite sure how I did it, but in talking to him, I kept him talking. We gained some common grounds on stuff."

Lamb said she empathized with him and she made it clear that she wanted to help.

"I told him I said, 'If you don't come out and I can't help you and I find out that something has happened to you, then I failed. I failed as a human. I failed in my job,'" Lamb said. "He understood that. He got that."

He got that enough to come outside after talking to Lamb for an hour and a half on the phone.

"Then another 30 minutes or so of talking on the porch, I was able to convince him to get an in an ambulance," she said. "Had we not gotten him the help that he needed, medical and otherwise, it would have been a totally different outcome."

Lamb leaned on the mental health first aid training that she received. Fellow Deputy John Hammond was instrumental in starting the program at the sheriff's office.

"I wanted to know how I could best serve the people of my community ... I was born and raised in this community," Deputy Hammond said. "I wanted to build a relationship between the sheriff’s office and NAMI, so I reached out to director of NAMI."

The director recommended the mental health first aid training.

The sheriff's office started the training this January.

"I would say 99 percent of our personnel that have received this class have been extremely happy about it, and they also say it’s long overdue," he told Pelton.

Hammond and Lamb are both instructors for the program.

"Throughout the class we touch on several topics, some of those topics are how to recognize schizophrenia, bi-polar, suicide, depression, self-harm, substance abuse," Hammond said.

The class teaches deputies how to respond to someone with a mental illness or drug problem. Part of that is to encourage professional help and to offer support.

"We have to sit there and say, 'Look, I'm John. I'm not a deputy sheriff. I'm not here to arrest you. I'm only here to provide you help and to let you know that we're worried about you.'

"People just want to be heard. People just want to know that someone cares about them and they're there for them," Hammond added. "That's what it's all about."

They are using the training in every call they respond to.

“This training isn’t only used for people who are in crisis, this training is used on every single call and every interaction we have in the community," said Hammond.

“It’s overwhelming how amazing it feels to be able to help someone and to let them know that there is a trail of recovery and there is hope for recovery, and we’re here to plant that seed and hope that it flourishes," he added.

As for Lamb, she ran into that same man again.

"Just a couple weeks ago, I saw him in the neighborhood. He was chasing after a dog that he had lost and I was able to help him try and find the dog. And he recognized me and told me thank you," Lamb added. "So that was nice ... gives me goosebumps."

The El Paso County sheriff liked the mental health training so much, he made the class mandatory for all deputies.

“I brought this to our chain of command and they were so ecstatic about this opportunity that we have in front of us because they see the need for it," Hammond said.

So far, more than 100 deputies have gone through the program. By the end of the year, all of their patrol team will be certified. El Paso County is one of only a handful of departments across the country that can say that.

Dozens of detention deputies have received the mental health classes. They are hoping to have 100 of the jail personnel trained by the end of the year. Next year, they plan to have all of their detention deputies trained.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, there are plenty of ways to reach out for help. You can call the Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention in Colorado Springs at 844-493-TALK (8255) or Click here to visit their website.

There is a statewide crisis line you can call at any time, and phone calls are confidential. The number for the Colorado crisis line is 1-844-493-8255. Click here for more information.

You can also reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Click here to visit their website.