A while ago, I wrote about Jimmy, a regular caller of whom I am rather fond. (A stark contrast to most of our regulars, who are complete pains in the posterior). Shortly after I made that post, Jimmy called us feeling suicidal and was taken in to the local hospital – something which has happened on countless occasions before. From that day on, we heard nothing. Jimmy went from calling us several times a night to never calling us at all. I remembered what Jimmy had told me – that he’d been told he wouldn’t live to see his 25th birthday, that he was now 26, and certainly wouldn’t live to see another birthday unless he stopped drinking… despite his best efforts, Jimmy had cut down but not stopped. I assumed the worst, and felt sad for Jimmy. This is one of the perils of being an ambulance dispatcher, when one of your regulars stops calling, you have no way of knowing what happened to them. I hoped he was still in hospital, or had moved out of London, or even had miraculous recovered from his addiction, his depression and the health problems caused by his self harm, and didn’t need us any more, but I knew that the most likely explanation was that Jimmy was dead.
This week we received a call in the dead of the night from a address about two miles from where we last saw Jimmy. It was from a 26 year old male, suicidal, threatening to slit his own throat. The landline he was calling from was registered to a “G Smirnoff”. Jimmy’s surname, different initial. Could this be Jimmy, staying with a relative? How many twenty-six year olds are there in North London with that surname and a penchant for slitting their own throats?
As soon as the call taker hung up, I knew I had to call back to see if it really was Jimmy.
The young man on the other end of the phone was in a terrible state. Hyperventilating, crying, talking gibberish.
“It’s the ambulance service,” I said. “Help is on the way – I just need to take your name. For our records.”
No answer. I wasn’t even sure he was listening to me. “Oh god, oh bloody hell,” he moaned. “It hurts…”
The ambulance and police crew were just pulling up. I tried once more.
“What’s your name?”
“Jimmy… Jimmy Smirnoff…”
And the line went dead.
And I almost got up and punched the air in jubilation that Jimmy wasn’t dead.
Jimmy was later blued in to the local hospital with a deep, self inflicted laceration to the neck. It wasn’t an arterial bleed and it wouldn’t be the first time he has done this, so I was not overly worried or surprised. I’m just glad he is alive, and I wish he could know that.
4th May 2015
It is seven years since I wrote these posts and not long afterwards I
moved to a different desk where I no longer had any contact with
“Jimmy”. I often wondered what had become of him and if he was still
alive, as he had told me the doctors were not expecting him to live to
his next birthday. Last week I received the news that “Jimmy” had
sadly passed away recently. I hope that he found some good times in
those extra years, and I am glad that his suffering is finally at an
Jimmy’s father has asked me to add this note:
After many failed attempts Jimmy finally succeeded in taking his own
life in April 2015. He had been diagnosed as suffering from Borderline
Personality Disorder many years ago and the best efforts of doctors,
family and friends failed to help him.
Jimmy took his own life because he suffered from almost continual
mental pain, he drank, took
drugs and self harmed to kill this pain, nothing else worked. To add
to his suffering, he felt guilty
about the distress he caused to those that loved him and ashamed
because he felt he was weak
when he couldn’t resist another bottle of vodka.
I want to thank Suzi for the sympathetic way she describes him in her
blog, she saw what many
others did not, that Jimmy was a warm hearted, deeply caring, funny
and clever person whom people liked if they could see past his
Mental illness brings suffering and devastation to too many people’s
lives, not only the sufferer but also their families, friends and
carers. You won’t find it as a cause of death on a death certificate
but in reality it kills many and, unfortunately, none of us are
immune. Suicide is the leading cause of death for men aged between 20
Most people care and want to help and you can too. Please considering
making a donation to Mental Health Research UK
(http://www.mentalhealthresearchuk.org.uk/) in Jimmy’s memory. Thank
Rest in peace at last Jimmy, all is forgiven and I am so glad your
suffering is over. By the way,
Smirnoff are mourning your loss, their profits are going to take a dive.