Case Study: Responding to a suicide attempt in a shopping centre

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Posted by: Emma Hurt | Last modified on 14/10/2019

The below content includes sensitive topics that may be distressing to some readers. The name of the young male in this article has been changed to protect his identity.


Market Place Shopping Centre, Bolton


On Thursday the 21st of March 2019 at 17:40 a young male was reported to be on the 3rd floor of Debenhams, on the wrong side of the balustrade saying he was going to jump. The Debenhams team asked the shopping centre for their assistance.

The centre team responded immediately and made their way to the location. Centre Manager, Nikki Wilson-Cook, security officer, Paul Ogden and a Mental Health First Aider went to speak to the young male. Nikki instructed the Debenhams team to leave the location so she and Paul could talk to the young male. Controller Dave Philips called the emergency services and kept them updated on the situation.


The young male was extremely distressed, saying he was going to jump and that there was no point in him carrying on anymore.


Nikki asked, "What’s your name?"


The young man responded, "James."


"How are you feeling, James?"


James said he wanted to jump and end it all. Nikki continued the conversation by asking why. James said he did not feel he could get better; that he heard voices in his head which he couldn't turn off and that it was driving him mad.


Both Nikki and Paul suggested that are treatments and support that could help him. Paul gave James some examples of support that is available; that they do work and that there is hope.


James responded by putting on headphones to listen to music, which made him more agitated and distressed. Nikki and Paul moved to get back his attention. As James removed his headphones, Nikki asked what music he was listening, to which James replied, "bad music."


Nikki asked, "why are you listening to bad music?"


"To help me jump."

Nikki then asked James about what he thought was going on in his head and if he would go onto the other side of the balustrade so they could talk about his condition. After an hour, James did go onto the right side of the balustrade. Paul and Nikki continued to talk to James about his life and family, calming James down.


While Nikki and Paul spoke to Spencer, the Operations team ensured the Debenhams store staff had been removed away from the site of the incident. They also kept the police and Ambulance services updated, who had arrived onsite.


James' mother was also contacted and was onsite, along with his father and brother. The centre team kept them away from James' location and spoke to them to keep them calm.


Nikki and Paul continued to talk to James until the first negotiator arrived at 18:50. Paul then left the atrium and Nikki updated the negotiator on what happened. Nikki continued to speak to James until the second negotiator arrived at 19:15. Nikki left and the negotiators took control of the situation. At 21:10, the negotiators were able to leave the third floor and go to safe space.


James is only 21 years old. Since the incident, he has received various treatments and is currently on a phased return to his job. The centre team is very proud to have been able to help James and wish him all the very best for his future.


The security officer, Paul Ogden won the ACE Stars Award earlier this year at the ACE Awards based on his actions.


Our thanks to the team at Market Place Bolton for providing this case study.


We recently developed a cohesive suicide awareness framework for the retail and placemaking community. We hope it will help support staff members on-site by arming them with the knowledge and understanding to help vulnerable people, identify physical solutions that work and determine what steps to take when an incident occurs. Download the guide here.


For more resources, please check out our Safer Places campaign page.


Likewise, read Mark Robinson's, Revo's President, article in Estates Gazette on real estate's role in preventing suicide and raising awareness. 


At Revo, we support the people and businesses involved in the diverse world of retail property and placemaking to thrive and prosper. Get in touch to find out more.


Tags: Guidance & Insight Reports, Security, Health & Safety