A Toronto woman who was contemplating suicide has penned a thank-you to two police officers after they saved her life last September.
Toronto police constables James Muirhead and Matthew McMillen received a handwritten letter from a woman named Ingrid — one day after they found her pacing frantically near the waterfront at Spadina Avenue and Queen's Quay with a bottle of sleeping pills in hand.
"I suffer from depression and was going to take my life," the woman writes in the letter dated September 19th.
"As I was sitting alone with intentions of taking my medications and overdosing," she writes, "I was scared, confused and disoriented. The officers approached me and made me feel safe."
It was around midnight on a Saturday when the two officers were called to the area. Ingrid had disclosed to her friend that she was thinking of ending her life.
That friend called 911, gave them Ingrid's number and police were able to triangulate her position.
When the officers spotted Ingrid, they could see that she was in distress. But they feared their presence might make her panic and jump into the water.
"We were able to calm her down, talk to her, and we treated her like a person. I think that is what resonated with her. There were no judgments from our end," McMillen said in a statement.
'Time and talk are on your side'
That kind of human touch can often make the difference between life and death, according to executive director of Distress Centres, Karen Letofsky.
"I think that's sometimes a misunderstanding that we have that, 'Yes, you want some specialized knowledge and training in mental health,' but in fact it's the human connection. Time and talk are on your side," Letofsky said.
"Anyone from a family member to a friend to a neighbour – when they demonstrate compassion and they listen respectfully and without judgement and allow that story of that person's pain to unfold, they can in fact make a meaningful intervention," said Letofsky.
That approach enabled police to talk Ingrid back from the water and get her to hand over her medication.
She was taken St. Mike`s hospital for treatment and it's there where she eventually wrote her letter of gratitude.
Feeling she mattered
Muirhead and McMillen say they do receive thank-you letters from time to time, but rarely from people in situations like Ingrid's.
"It's not too common. Receiving that letter was a pretty positive moment," Muirhead said. "Even though something may become routine to us it still has quite an impact on someone and can really make a difference."
But they say it's Ingrid and her friend who should be applauded for coming forward in that moment of crisis.
"That's I think the real tragedy when someone loses hope and doesn't reach out in that moment." Muirhead said.
The officers attribute their success that night to the crisis intervention training they've had. But for Ingrid it seems it was feeling that the officers really cared that saved her life.
"I want to express my gratitude toward them and want them to be recognized for the kind, gentle men they are. Please thank them both for taking the time to make me feel like I mattered."