Veteran shares how a complete stranger saved him from suicide

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT)– Michael Fellman is a veteran who was seconds away from taking his own life, when a complete stranger stepped in to save him.

For many people Lake Shawnee creates memories like spending time with friends and family, barbecuing, or going fishing. For Fellman though, it takes him back to the day he planned to be his last.

“It was July 31st, 2015 and I woke up and decided it was going to be my last day living,” Fellman said. “I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

That was two years after Fellman retired from the military after 13 years of service.

He said he knew something was wrong, but hid his emotions from the people he cared about. He drove to Lake Shawnee and sat in his truck, for two hours.

“I wrote my suicide notes, wrote one to my daughter, one to my fiancee, one to my parents, and then I engraved the word sorry into the round I was going to use,” he said.

Fellman’s fiancee, Tiffany Vermeline, said she called him over and over, but he wouldn’t answer.

“I knew in my heart what he was doing,” she said. “And I remember driving down the road with my radio off, just praying and asking god to keep him safe.”

“I mean I had my finger on the trigger, I was right there,” Fellman said.

And then, a complete stranger gave him a second chance at life.

“Out of no where this gentleman walked by, and there hadn’t been anybody come by for hours, and he just looked at me and goes you alright?” Fellman said.

That’s when he knew he needed help.

“I felt like I was in a big black hole and then this big hand came down and pulled me up out of this hole and that was the VA,” he said.

“Looking back there are signs, there are signs even myself who is a professional, health care professional, missed,” Vermeline said.

She said her emotions she felt were surprising.

“Why am I mad at him?” she asked. “I should just be grateful he’s here, but you will go through feelings of grief also.”

But she said she still wouldn’t choose another person to spend her life with.

Fellamn said while it’ll never get easier, suicide will never be the answer.

Valeo Behavioral Health Care Center told KSNT News these are some signs that someone may be considering suicide:

Immediate Risk

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or obtaining a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live

Serious Risk

Other behaviors may also indicate a serious risk—especially if the behavior is new; has increased; and/or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.

  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Giving away prized possessions, suddenly making a will
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

Resources for suicide prevention include:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 271-8255– [273-TALK] available 24/7 (has a number to press if person is a Veteran)
  • Valeo Behavior Health Care Crisis Line: (785) 234-3300– available 24/7
  • Valeo Behavioral Health Care has walk-in crisis services at 400 SW Oakley (the Crisis Center), open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (serves ages 18 and over)
  • Additional information and resources can be found at the Shawnee County Suicide Prevention Coalition website by clicking here

Valeo Behavior Center said these are other ways you can help those who you think are contemplating suicide:

  • Ask the person directly and without judgement if they are thinking of killing themselves.  “Are you having thoughts of killing yourself?” or “Are you thinking about suicide?”
  • Never leave an actively suicidal person alone.  Stay with them and let them know you are there to help.
  • If possible, remove any items that he or she may use to harm themselves.
  • Listen without judging, as sometimes just being able to talk will relieve some of their pain and fear.  It will also help you better understand what kind of help is needed.
  • Reassure the person that there is help and you will be there to help them find it.
  • You can take the individual to the ER, to their primary care provider, or to a mental health professional. Valeo’s Crisis Center is open 24/7 and serves anyone age 18 and over.  You can walk in any time day or night and meet with a master’s level crisis clinician.
  • If it is an emergency (for example, medical attention is needed or the person is threatening suicide and refusing help), call 911.


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