TRENDS Diary: A Psychologist’s Roadside Redemption: Hit A Car, Then Save A Life

TRENDS Diary, a project of the Community Foundation of Boulder County, is a place for Boulder County residents of all ages to share personal experiences that relate to a pressing community need. The focus, for now, is on our shared need to connect and solve problems, despite the increased isolation we’re all experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Dear TRENDS Diary,

What began as a very unpleasant experience for Elyse Morgan ended as an opportunity for her to help her new community and appreciate the potential role of community members in community safety.

Dear TRENDS Diary,

Recent interest in alternatives to traditional approaches to community safety has reminded me of my own experience as a young psychologist many years ago.

The memory doesn’t start out well. I was an inexperienced driver (I’m from NY) heading to a Weld County property I had just decided to rent for a short-lived experiment in country living before returning to Boulder for good. I knew I wanted to move there, but I didn’t know how to get there. After an ill-fated attempt at a left turn, I tried to rejoin traffic—only to sideswipe another car, which then landed in a ditch by the road.

Fortunately, the driver was alright, if a bit shaken up. We called the authorities and then waited…and waited. Although the other driver and I managed to chat cordially, we were eager to get on with our day.

When the deputy arrived, however, he hurriedly explained that he couldn’t stay. He had to join his colleagues up the road to manage an emergency: a teenage girl was in a car threatening suicide. As the officer seemed a bit frazzled–and as I was eager to atone for my driving “mishap”–I identified myself as a psychologist and volunteered to help.

The officer mumbled something and went on his way. After about 15 minutes, he returned. “Are you really a psychologist?” “Yes.” “Get in,” he said. Apparently, his encounter with the teenager had not gone well.

I spent several hours with this young woman, connecting with her and assessing her suicidal thinking. Gradually, she agreed to go to the hospital for a full assessment. She, the officer, and I were all relieved.

What began as a very unpleasant experience ended as an opportunity for me to help my new community and appreciate the potential role of community members in community safety.

– Elyse Morgan, as told to Glenda Russell