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Lyft and Uber Drivers Can Save Lives: The First Step is to Listen

Chad Farley picked up one last fare. A pretty normal night in the life of an Uber driver. But his GPS told him this fare’s destination was the top of Skyway Bridge. And Farley did an amazing thing – something many of us might hesitate to do. He talked to the young man. That’s when he learned his passenger had been diagnosed with brain cancer and might be trying to take his own life. (“An Uber Driver Helps Stop a Suicide,” NPR, August 16, 2017).

“My first thought was to get somebody else involved,” said Farley. He decided to call a toll worker who told him to pull over to the side of the road where her supervisor would come to meet him. Farley did as he was told and pulled into a rest area at the base of the bridge where people were congregating and he thought the young man would be safe. Farley took a photograph with the young man before he got out of the car.

“I knew as soon as I took off, I was calling the police,” said Farley. Based on the photograph Farley took, police were able to identify the young man, get him to a hospital and save his life.

But without Farley’s quick thinking, the police wouldn’t have been there and the story would have had a very different ending. And it all started with talking to a person in distress. Such a simple act. And one that anyone could do.

That’s why Mental Health First Aid is so important. This course familiarizes laypeople with the signs and symptoms of all types of mental health challenges. The training program also teaches people a five-step action plan to use if confronted by someone who might be experiencing a mental health crisis. The action plan begins with A: Assess for risk of suicide or harm, step two is L: Listen nonjudgmentally.

Farley was right on track. The police arrived on-scene before the man had the chance to jump, and while they were unsuccessful in coaxing him not to, pulled him out of the water, resuscitated him and brought him to the hospital. “If folks want to say somebody’s a hero, they can talk to the officers that jumped in the water,” said Farley.

Since then, Farley has received an outpouring of support from other Uber drivers who have told him that they’re going to pay more attention to their passengers – and they’ll listen.

This story is a reminder of just how important mental health training is no matter what profession you’re in. It’s a story that goes to show even an Uber driver can #BeTheDifference in the life of someone contemplating suicide or living with a mental health challenge.