UK radio host and comedian Iain Lee is open about his own mental health struggles. Perhaps that’s why a suicidal man reached out to him during what could have been his final hours.
The caller, known only as “Chris,” called Lee some short distance from a nightclub, where he lay in the street, having overdosed on a cocktail of drugs.
“I do want to die, Iain,” the caller insisted, slurring his words.
“Shut up, man,” the radio host replied. “I know you want to die, brother, but I love you. I love you. You may want to die, but we can talk about that tomorrow.”
For Lee, “tomorrow” was the only option. He refused to entertain the alternative, staying on the phone with Chris for 27 minutes until emergency services arrived at the scene.
Like many comedians, Lee was no stranger to depression—he too battled suicidal thoughts after coming off antidepressants. Perhaps he understood from personal experience what research confirms: “connectedness acts as a buffer against hopelessness and psychological pain.”
As the call stretched on, Chris grew increasingly unintelligible, slipping in and out of consciousness. “This is horrendous,” Lee said during a particularly anxiety-inducing silence near the end of the call. “Can anyone hear me? Hello, can anyone hear me?” At long last, a quiet murmur reassured Lee and his listeners Chris was holding on. “Chris, you’re still alive! Thank Christ.”
When police finally confirmed to Lee the man had been found, the radio host broke down in tears.
Later, having collected himself, he tweeted:
“Tonight we took a call from a man who had taken an overdose. He was lying in a street in Plymouth, dying. We managed to keep him online, get a description of what he looked like and was wearing, work out where he was, and send an ambulance and police to him. Kept him on the phone for 30 minutes while he got harder to understand.”
“Long periods of silence where I thought he’d died. F___, that was intense and upsetting. Thanks for your kind words. I really hope he makes it.”
Despite having saved this man’s life, Lee humbly shrugs off notions of himself and his radio colleagues as having done anything exceptional.
@iainlee You amazing man.! When u opened up on TV about your depression, you helped so many people.I was one step away from suicide & your explanation of what you went thro made me realise my thoughts weren’t normal, I was ill & needed help. Not every hero wears a cape 👍Thank u
— Brendan Keenan (@Bren_Keenan) December 22, 2018
“I don’t consider us heroes,” he tweeted. “We were just in the right place at the right time. We did out jobs as broadcasters and more important we did our jobs as humans.”
Genuinely surprised by how big this ‘thing’ has got. All we did was what I hope most people would do – hold the hand of someone struggling with life until the grown ups arrived.
— Iain Lee – talkRADIO (@iainlee) December 22, 2018
December—with its long, dark nights and emotionally fraught holiday season—is a difficult month for many, and reports of low mood and depression do increase.
However, the idea that suicides spike around this time of year just isn’t true. According to an article in The Atlantic, “the overwhelming majority of people who kill themselves are mentally ill,” — and mental illness doesn’t abide by a calendar. That said, the holidays are a time for togetherness—for connectedness—and for sharing, even if that means sharing your pain.
“Don’t suffer in silence,” Lee advises in a tweet. “[If] you’re so sad it hurts… share it with someone.”