‘I could see it. I could feel it’; Humane Society helps save person contemplating suicide

A local animal shelter went the extra mile for a person in distress.

Cowlitz Humane Society Executive Director Darren Ullmann says listening and embracing an individual contemplating suicide made a big difference; it may have helped save their life.

A little bit of compassion goes a long way. Ullmann is sharing this story, and the importance in recognizing signs of distress this holiday season.

"What I'm trying to do is just to really humanize our shelter," Ullmann said.

It's a calling Ullman says he’s been striving for since taking over the Cowlitz County Humane Society in February.

"I want it to be a place where people and animals connect, and that we keep that connection alive," Ullmann said.

This moment is a perfect example of how he’s doing just that.

"I've been to where there's no hope and so I could see it. I could feel it," Ullmann said.

The warm embrace only lasted a few moments, but it changed the way the person thought. It saved their life. 

"I was telling them, ‘You're safe now,’" Ullmann said. "‘It's going to be okay. Things will work out.’"

The visit was unlike any other. The person wanted to surrender two of their dogs. Ullman, a former police officer and service member, recognized the signs immediately. He says the person was closed off, very distraught and angry. 

"The first thing that that person really needed was just someone to acknowledge what they were saying and to understand and to listen, and I think that was more important than anything was just having an ear," Ullmann said. "Hugs don't hurt anybody."

He says seconds before the person was at the shelter, a warning from the 911 communication center came in saying a person contemplating suicide and armed was en route. His hope was to help defuse the situation and calm the individual. So he listened.

"One of the things that this person pointed out was that these dogs have witnessed too much abuse," Ullmann said. "That's where I saw the glimmer of hope. That's kind of why I moved in and did what I did, because I knew there was still a spark there. The person just really needed some help."

As police started to form outside the shelter, he leaned in taking them into his arms. The person was escorted out. Police recovered two guns from their car. Ullman took in the two dogs, which are being cared for until they’re discharged from the hospital.

"This was a person who loved their animals enough to, in a bad situation, to think of the animals first, and to take action in regards to that before doing anything else," Ullmann said. 

A real life situation he wants to share with the community, especially this holiday season as things can be difficult, you're not alone. Ullmann says bottom line, this is part of the shelter's mission – to be humane. 

Editor's Note: If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lineline for free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

CLICK HERE  for the warning signs and risk factors of suicide and CLICK HERE  for more on the 988 Lifeline.