I was panicking and desperate

PHOTO: I was panicking and desperate

SINGAPORE - Her maternal instincts kicked in when she saw a young girl perched precariously on a ledge, threatening to kill herself.

Woman Corporal Fadhilah Rahim, 28, the mother of a four-month-old girl, was on patrol when she was called in to assist a "girl in distress" at Yishun Ring Road on March 26.

"I did not know what to expect at all. Many scenarios were running through my head," said Cpl Fadhilah, who is from Yishun North Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC).

She managed to win over the distressed teenager and talk her out of suicide - despite not having been formally trained in crisis counselling. The girl, who is in her late teens, was sobbing and clinging onto the railings of the eighth-storey parapet.

Said Cpl Fadhilah, who has been in the force for four years: "When I saw her like that, I was panicking and desperate to help her because I thought about how her parents would have felt if they saw their daughter like that.

"But I had to maintain a calm demeanour."

Cpl Fadhilah did not want to intimidate the teen with her presence, fearing that the slightest move would worsen the situation.

So she went down on her knees and slowly inched her way toward the teen.

Cpl Fadhilah said: "(I told her:) Don't do this. Think of the people who love you."

She repeated this many times, but the girl did not reply.

"I was worried because she was silent and still and I thought she might jump," said Cpl Fadhilah.

"But despite the lack of response, I had to keep talking to her to build that trust with her."

Cpl Fadhilah told the girl: "If you are having a problem, there are other ways to solve this."

About 10 minutes later, the girl finally started to open up and she eventually shared why she wanted to end her life.

Cpl Fadhilah said: "To understand and help her, I needed to know what her problem was.

"I knew it was a step in the right direction when she finally replied. But I was still extremely worried that she would jump," she said.

"It helped that a bond was created and I could understand her."

She said the girl looked worn out and lethargic and was sobbing throughout the 40-minute standoff.

HOLDING ON

As she talked to her, Cpl Fadhilah continued to inch forward until she could grab her leg.

"At no point during our conversation did I feel 100 per cent sure that she was not going to jump, so I felt I needed to hold her in case something happened," said Cpl Fadhilah.

Singapore Civil Defence Force officers then got hold of the girl and brought her to safety.

The girl just fell into Cpl Fadhilah's arms and sobbed.

She said: "I just held her for five minutes and we didn't exchange a single word. I was simply there for her while trying to calm her down.

"At the same time, I was very relieved that a life was saved. I also felt like I could finally breathe properly."

It was clear that the two had formed a bond. When other officers were questioning the girl, she looked to Cpl Fadhilah for comfort.

"I told her it's okay to respond to them and she listened to me," she said.

After the incident, Yishun North NPC posted a photo of Cpl Fadhilah consoling the girl on its Facebook page. The photo received about 3,245 likes as of yesterday.

Netizens praised Cpl Fadhilah and applauded her strength and ability to save a life.

But Cpl Fadhilah said matter-of-factly: "It's my duty to help when I can. I would have wanted someone else to save my child if she was in the same situation."

Cops taught to handle suicide situations

Most police officers are taught how to handle distraught persons who are attempting to commit suicide.

They are trained to contain and mitigate such situations, said a police spokesman.

He added that the SPF Crisis Negotiation Unit police has more than 80 police officers and psychologists who are trained to negotiate in cases of hostage-taking, barricaded subjects, civil disobedience and suicide intervention.

There were 940 cases of attempted suicides received by the police last year, a 15.9 per cent decrease from 2012.

The previous year, there were 1,009 cases of attempted suicide recorded by the police.

Anyone attempting to commit suicide may be fined or jailed for up to a year or both.

djenn@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 26 in The New Paper. Get The New Paper for more stories.

HELPLINES
Samaritans of Singapore (SOS):1800-2214444
Singapore Association for Mental Health:1800-2837019
Sage Counselling Centre:1800-5555555
Care Corner Mandarin Counselling:1800-3535800