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The heroes who risk their lives to rescue the suicidal

Update: August, 21/2018 - 08:00
Rescue officers in HCM City try to rescue a local man from a suicide attempt on a high voltage pole on Kinh Dương Vương Street in Bình Tân District in January. — VNA/VNS Photo Mạnh Linh
Viet Nam News

HCM CITY — HCM City rescue officers have often found themselves trying to save people from suicide attempts.

Working under the Fire Prevention, Fighting and Rescue Police Department under the Ministry of Public Security, the brave rescuers often encounter suicide attempts that scar them psychologically, and others that are just downright confusing, the Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper reported.

The most common cases involved people who took drugs then climbed up electric posts and threatened to take their own lives. These cases are the most time-consuming and require a lot of efforts to solve since they often happen on busy streets, said Major Nguyễn Chí Thành, vice captain of one of HCM City’s rescue teams.

One example was when a local man, 38, climbed up a 30m high voltage pole on Kinh Dương Vương Street in Bình Tân District and threatened to jump in January, Thành said.

“We did not have much time and had to act fast, otherwise it would cause traffic congestion,” he said. “And we had to disconnect power on the pole to ensure safety for the man, despite knowing the power cut would affect the entire city.”

The team needed support from two other teams, with three air cushions placed on the ground and a fire truck with a 32m ladder so they could climb the pole and talk to the man, Thành added.

“He kept screaming at us and demanded to meet a city official,” he said.

“After 15 minutes of trying to persuade him to no avail, one of our members pointed at someone who looked like an official on the ground and said to him: ‘He’s here, he’s asking you to come down.’

“Only then did he agree to step on to the ladder so that we could bring him down to the ground.”

Sometimes the rescuers use psychological methods to calm down suicidal people, like when a heartbroken patient threatened to jump from the fifth floor of Trưng Vương Hospital in District 10 in June.

The first thing they did upon reaching the hospital was a spot to place an air cushion in case he actually jumped, said a team captain, Colonel Lê Quang Thuấn.

The patient, 19, was taken to hospital following a suicide attempt with sleeping pills after breaking up with his girlfriend. After recovering from emergency treatment, he climbed the safety fence on the fifth floor and threatened to jump.

Thuấn said he was so unstable he screamed: “I will jump if anyone comes near me!”, scaring people off.

“In that case, trying to communicate with them to create sympathy is the key to preventing them from risking their lives,” Thuấn said.

During those crucial moments, each of the patient’s requests was met, including giving him a phone so he could call his family, Thuấn added. And when he demanded to meet his ex-girlfriend, the rescue officers looked for the girl’s house and asked local authorities to take her to the hospital, he said.

“But her family did not allow her to go, so we had to lie to the man: ‘We’ve got her, she’s on her way…’, and constantly gave him water to prevent dehydration and exhaustion,” Thuấn said.

Each glass of water was one step closer to the patient, Thuấn said. By 4pm they managed to calm him down and get him inside, to onlookers’ relief.

But not every mission ends with everyone intact, with even the rescuers coming off injured on occasion.

Major Nguyễn Chí Thành, with scars on his hands and face, reminders of an occupational accident he suffered in 2005 while on a rescue mission at a warehouse in District 7.

The team was trying to rescue a suicidal young man who climbed up to the warehouse’s roof about 10m above the ground. After communication efforts failed, they decided to climb up and planned on forcing him to come down, which they achieved successfully.

Thành was walking on some corrugated roofing sheets to get to the roof when he stepped on a broken one and fell to the ground, injuring his spinal cord and other parts of his body. It took him three months to walk again.

“That was tough,” he said. “But we’ve all got used to having rocks thrown at us and getting hit in the face so hard it gets swollen, which happens quite often.”

“For fire police, every mission has its own pleasant and unpleasant memories, and in a way all missions bear the same meaning,” he said. “But for rescue officers like us, the happiest moment is when we hear people clapping after we are able to rescue someone.” — VNS

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