It was a summer evening and Detective Mike Cantillon had accepted an overtime assignment patrolling wetlands in St. Charles County so they could remain a safe haven for endangered birds. He wasn’t expecting to get a call on the radio for a suicidal person who planned to jump from a nearby bridge, but he was prepared to do what was needed for someone in crisis.
Provident salutes Detective Cantillon for his life-saving work and is proud to share his story, which includes information about how training in suicide prevention can make all the difference.
What prepared you for this moment?
I’ve been do this job for 20 years and got my Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training about 10 years ago. Police work is ever-changing and we were seeing more people with mental health issues.
I’d also faced my own problems with alcohol in 2009, when I was drinking to deal with what I do for a living. I went to rehab and got perspective; I learned it doesn’t make me a bad person. Taking that step to get help for myself taught me a lot about helping people when they are facing things.
Tell us how you became involved on this particular night.
The call came out as a suicidal person on a bridge, and I was very close by. When you get to a scene like that, you don’t know what you’re walking into so you immediately evaluate the situation. This individual was sitting on the edge. He had removed his shoes and socks and was wearing a backpack filled with rocks.
I started talking to him. I told him I couldn’t hear him very well because he was looking away from me and traffic was going by. Once I got him to face me, to put his feet onto the concrete decking, I knew we had something to work with.
What happened next?
He told me his story. He was young, homeless, struggling with substance abuse, and felt like he didn’t have anyone to help him.
I told him about my personal story and that got his attention. Once we got that rapport, I got him off the side of the bridge. He got into my car. It only took 20 minutes to get him out of immediate danger.
I gave him my business card and told him he could call me any time he needed to talk. I encouraged him to be open minded if he goes through recovery. I’m not a counselor, but it was obvious to me this was a person who just needed someone to hear him.
What would you like people to know about your work?
The police department sends us through the CIT program and I learned a lot. It’s a week long and they bring in people who have personally experienced things like PTSD, schizophrenia, drug addiction. It really changed how I looked at those situations and gave me more tools in my toolbox during calls like this.
I want to tell people that they need to pay attention to the people around them. Someone had to know this young man before he got to this point, they had to realize there was a problem. There are always warning signs before it gets to me receiving a call. We have to step in and do what we can to intervene for the people in our families, for our friends.
Click here to learn more about how Provident offers suicide prevention training to groups and individuals.