A suicidal call is hard to ignore

On Saturday night I called into Radio 5 Live after hearing a man considering killing himself due to debts (it’s rather strange to follow my ‘Debt is not bad‘ blog with this one). To be honest I wasn’t planning to write a blog on it, but I’ve had a number of emails about it, and the Radio 5 Live producers sent me the audio file unprompted and suggested I publish it on the site, as they believe many here would be interested, and it’s an important warning about the dangers of debt crisis and gambling.

The file is at the end, but it’s important to understand the context first.

The MSG and I were in the car returning from dinner with Stephen Nolan’s Radio 5 Live Talk show on. The phone- in was on ‘debt and insolvency and who’s fault is it?’ It was an interesting debate so I turned it on when we got home too.

A man with £40,000 of gambling debts rang in. He said he couldn’t stop gambling yet couldn’t tell his wife, that it was all about to come to a head and he only had one way out. That way out, as he said, was to kill himself, suggesting at least that way his wife and children would be able to get some money. It was a horrendous tale.

The conversation moved on with this man still on the line. He’d actually had a go at the banks for allowing him this amount of credit, even though he admitted to some fraudulent applications. Another caller came on and berated him for getting into debt saying it was his own fault.

To my ears this wasn’t an appropriate moment to debate fault. This man had obviously called in as a plea for help. Rather interestingly as the programme producers told me later, “we were overloaded with texts with people saying, someone help him for heavens sake”.

Unlike most people at home, I was in a position to at least try to help. There were two guests in the studio, who knew their stuff, but actually dealing with someone in that state is very difficult. All that had been suggested so far was that he seek debt counselling, which of course is right, but he’d indicated that the message hadn’t seemed to get through to him, so on a moment of instinct I picked up the phone.

Luckily the researcher who answered knew who I was and managed to put me straight through to the Editor, who got me on air within 60 seconds of making the call – very speedy indeed.

In fact my heart was thumping, I was extremely nervous. It’s a horrible thought in this kind of situation that you may say the wrong thing; and even though I’ve been on programmes before with similar scenarios, you don’t get used to it. The nerves meant I wasn’t fluid, and I doubt I sounded like the ‘polished broadcaster’ I should try to be.

In fact even though the producers have e-mailed me the audio file, I haven’t felt able to listen to it back, in case I realise I could’ve said something better – the thought still makes me feel slightly uncomfortable – as perhaps any scenario of this type should. Luckily it seems I got through a little bit and the man will be seeking help.

Listen to the MP3 Audio File of the Stephen Nolan Programme

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