WATCH: St. Paul police use crisis intervention to save man on Smith Ave. Bridge

- The St. Paul Police Department have been working with mental health professionals on how to better handle people who are in crisis.

The need for crisis intervention training was clear on the Smith Avenue Bridge Wednesday afternoon when two young officers talked a suicidal man down off the ledge. The whole incident was caught on camera.

A passerby called 911 after noticing a man standing in the middle of the bridge who seemed despondent and contemplating suicide.

When two officers approach him three minutes later, the man climbs up on the light pole and dangles himself over the Mississippi River 160 feet below, telling them he wants to end his life.

"As they moved in slowly and engaged him in conversation, they learned he had a myriad of personal problems he was concerned with and they talked about them," St. Paul police spokesperson Sgt. Mike Ernster said.

For the next few minutes, the officers take their time, inching closer while trying to talk the man down without setting him off.

"As the officers talked to him, they stressed the importance of staying positive. You can't control what's in your past but you can control what's in your future. So lets make that right step right now and make a positive change in your life," Ernster said.

Eight and a half minutes after the officers arrived, the man finally reaches out to the officers who help him down from the ledge and comfort him as he sits on the sidewalk.

Police say the pair have only been with the St. Paul Police Department for a couple of years, but when it comes to saving lives, they already seem like veterans.

"A lot of us have been putting in a lot of hours this last week. We are stretched thin but we're still out here responding with compassion and respect and treating people like people," Ernster said.

So far only about one third of St. Paul police officers have received Crisis Intervention Training, but the plan is to train the entire department.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 800-273-8255. The hotline has trained staff available 24/7 to help those in crisis. Everyone can play a role in preventing suicide by being aware of the warning signs of suicidal behaviors:

- Talking about wanting to die; feeling hopeless, trapped, or in unbearable pain, being a burden to others
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings.

What you can do

If you believe someone is at risk of suicide:

- Ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves. (This will not put the idea into their heads, or make it more likely that they will attempt suicide)
- Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255)
- Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional;
- Remove any objects that could be used in a suicide attempt; and
- If possible, do not leave the person alone.


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