Medics face unknown at suicide scenes

Local professionals have seen an uptick on drug overdoses, including intentional ones.


WALLA WALLA -- The calls come in from the 911 dispatch, alerting his staff they are needed at a suicide or attempted suicide, said city Deputy Fire Chief Brad Morris.

Police go in first to stabilize and clear the scene, then it's time for the paramedics to do their jobs.

Sometimes they can do something, sometimes they can't.

Morris's department has seen a big uptick in drug overdoses here, he said. "A lot of those are intentional."

There's rarely a typical suicide, said paramedic Matt Ricks, who has been at the job for 15 years. "Sometimes it's not what you thought you'd see."

The situation can be exacerbated by family members, explained paramedic Ryan Pleasants, an 11-year veteran. Many go from shock to denial to hysteria, wanting the paramedics to continue all efforts at revival. "I think everyone who is not expecting a death wants you to go above and beyond."

Ricks nodded. "One of the toughest things is telling a family member that their loved one is dead," he said.

Those are the people left behind, lost in grief and asking what they could have done differently, he added.

It would be easy to assume those dying by suicide could have found another answer, Ricks said. "It's easy to stereotype, but until you've been in their shoes, to know what made them go that place ... until you've been in their shoes you don't know."

Sheila Hagar can be reached at or 526-8322.


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