Refusing to be a bystander

  • Published
  • By Courtesy commentary
  • 319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

A friend of mine seemed in a funk when we were catching up via text a couple years ago. He ended up calling me to tell me how tired, angry and frustrated he was with everything going on in his life. I asked him if he was depressed, and he told me he just didn’t care about anything anymore.

As awkward as it was, I asked him the tough question no one likes to bring up.

“Do you want to kill yourself?”

He told me yes, but not to tell anyone. He said I couldn’t do anything about it anyways, since we were no longer stationed together. I kept him on the phone though, talking about how he felt until the call dropped. What am I going to do? I thought to myself. I’m in a completely different country.                

The dropped call gave me time to contact his security forces squadron and provide as much information as I could: my friend’s name, dorm and room number, squadron, job, and the situation. After that, I called my friend back.

“Did you tell anyone?” He asked.

I didn’t say whether I did or not, because I was afraid he would leave his room.

“If the roles were reversed, what would you do?” I responded. “Would you risk letting me hurt myself, or would you call someone?”

“It’s different,” he said. He told me he would do what he could to help me.

I heard security forces knocking on his door shortly after, and he angrily hung up on me. He was escorted to a day room and had to wait for his first sergeant to come talk to him.

Fast-forward after this ordeal, and we’re still close. He expressed he was mad at me for not saying I told the authorities, but he knows he would have done the same for me.

In that moment, I knew I had to do something. I’ve had close people in my life be faced with the thought of suicide or self-abuse, and that has always made me want to be proactive.

Receiving Green Dot training and having the prior family experience helped me refuse to be a bystander. In that moment with my friend, the training I had about understanding different scenarios and ways to respond effectively was extremely useful, especially since I learned what worked from others who had real-life situations. 

I will continue to be a strong and active bystander, and I encourage every friend, colleague and family member to do the same so they can be prepared for an event like mine.

Editor note: This anonymous “save” story was provided by the Grand Forks Air Force Base Violence Prevention integrator and Community Support coordinator. They ask if you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, please call the national Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for 24/7, free and confidential support. We can all help prevent suicide.