A potential tragedy was averted this past Tuesday as Antoinette Tuff, a school bookkeeper in Georgia, became a national hero. A 20 year old man entered an Atlanta-area school with an AK-47 assault rifle and almost 500 rounds of ammunition. We’ve seen far too many of these situations turn out tragically, and it was incredibly refreshing to have a happy end to such a scene.

So, how did she do it?

She talked to him. She kept her voice calm. She kept him in conversation. She reassured him that nothing he had done so far was irreversible. She encouraged him to put his weapons down and give up so he could get the help he needed. She told him she cared about him and that she loved him.

I was watching and listening to her 911 call and said out loud, “Wow! That’s peer support!” Antoinette provided peer support to this young man in the middle of a crisis. That is heroic! It would appear that these two had little in common – age, ethnicity, race, career, all different. But they had both experienced pain and hopelessness. She shared her lived experience of pain and feeling suicidal and getting back to a place of peace with him to give him hope that things could be different. He saw just one path for himself until that moment. He thought things had to play out a certain way. She gave him hope and therefore more options.

I’m struck by how profound this event has been in the wake of so many other tragedies over the last couple of years. And I’m also reminded that peer specialists do this work every day. Maybe if he had had peer support with his mental health treatment, this event could have been averted entirely. In my opinion, we should all take this opportunity as peers to let people know how important it is that we share our recovery stories to give hope to those who need it. Letting our peers know they are not alone and there is hope for the life they want, and holding hope for those that have lost it along the way.

For more information on Antoinette Tuff, click here.

To hear the 911 call, click here.

For more information on peer support, click here.