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UHP trooper shares story of saving man hanging on overpass to bring awareness to mental health

Posted at 8:32 PM, May 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-07 22:37:59-04

A Utah Highway Patrol Trooper wants to make sure everyone knows about the available mental health resources available after he recently saved a man hanging off an overpass along I-215.

The man Trooper Jake Gallegos saved was suicidal.

While FOX 13 does not usually report on suicides, Utah is number 6 in the country for suicides and Gallegos wanted to share this story to maybe help others who may be struggling.

Gallegos was on his way home after a grave shift, when he received a call from dispatch about a possible suicide or jump on an I-215 overpass.

“I knew I just had to get onto the bridge and see what I can do,” Gallegos said.

He was the first trooper to arrive on scene, and Gallegos noted there as a 40 to 50-foot drop from the barrier to the freeway.

It was around five in the morning.

Troopers had shut down all traffic near the area. Two additional troopers joined Gallegos on the bridge.

“These are just split seconds and you’re trying to calculate, does he have a ledge, how long, how close,” Gallegos said. “The end goal: save that person.”

The man began lowering himself from the overpass barrier, but Gallegos and the other troopers were able to catch him.

“We all take oaths to help and serve, and we don’t realize how far we’re going sometimes to serve,” said Gallegos.

Since the pandemic began, UHP reports seeing an 80% increase in the number of people they take in for mental health care.

Rachel Lucinski, the business manager for UNI Crisis and Diversion Services, said the highest amount of mental calls they’ve ever seen were because of the pandemic and earthquake.

“There has been a stigma around mental health and around talking about these feelings and reaching out for help and support,” Lucinski said. “These feelings are really normal and really common in so many folks across the states.”

At UNI, Lucinski said they take anywhere from seven to ten thousand calls a month.

“People might say I don’t think I’m suicidal or I don’t think I’m in a crisis,” Lucinski said. “That is the right time to call the crisis line.”

A reminder that there will always be someone there to reach out, whether over the phone, or ver the barriers of life.

“We are all put into tough situations and sometimes we stumble and fall,” Gallegos said. “I’m glad he’s okay.”

The following is a list of resources:

Utah Statewide Crisis Line / National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

  • Call 24/7 to speak to a licensed crisis counselor if you or a loved one are having thoughts of suicide, are experiencing an emotional or mental health crisis, or are feeling overwhelmed and need support.

Utah Warm Line: 801-587-1055

  • Open 7-days a week, from 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. Call to speak with a certified peer support specialist.
  • This service is for people who are not in crisis, but seeking emotional support, engagement, or encouragement. Certified peer specialists offer support and empower callers to resolve problems by fostering a sense of hope, dignity, and self-respect.

Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams (MCOT)

  • Triaged and dispatched through the Utah Statewide CrisisLine by calling 1-800-273-8255, teams are available for dispatch in Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, and Utah counties, and the southwest region of Utah, including St. George and surrounding cities.
  • Due to COVID-19, crisis counselors on the CrisisLine will ask health screening questions to determine if an in-person or telehealth response is most beneficial. MCOT staff will wear the CDC’s recommended universal precautions to include goggles, masks, gloves, and gowns to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our community and health care workforce.

SafeUT (Crisis Chat and School Safety Tip app)

  • The SafeUT Crisis Chat and Tip Line is a statewide service that provides real-time crisis intervention to youth (public K-12 and higher education) through live chat and a confidential tip program – right from your smartphone.
  • Licensed crisis counselors are available 24/7 to respond to all incoming chats, tips, and calls by providing supportive or crisis counseling, suicide prevention, and referral services.
  • Support is also available to parents and educators of students in public K-12 and higher education.
  • Free and available for download from the Google Play Store and the App Store.
  • SafeUTNG (Crisis Chat and Safety Tip app for Utah’s Army and Air National Guard service members, family members, and personnel)
  • As an extension of SafeUT, the SafeUTNG app provides a safe and confidential platform to communicate with a licensed crisis counselor 24/7. Users can text, submit a tip, or call to receive support.
  • The app is operated and managed by the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) in partnership with the Utah National Guard.
  • Licensed mental health professionals can assist with a variety of issues including: emotional crisis, grief and loss, drug and alcohol issues, mental health issues, self-harm, suicide prevention, and safety concerns.
  • Free and available for download from the Google Play Store and the App Store.

Utah Coronavirus Information Line: 1-800-456-7707