OShields was skeptical and had “a little bit of an attitude” when he called. He’d spoken earlier with another agency and says maybe it was his boisterous personality, but the person on the other end assumed he was after opioids and told him not to bother calling again.
“If there are soldiers out there, if there are law enforcement out there, if there are civilians out there who have mental health challenges, they need to call these people,” OShields said. “I don’t think people know they’re out there because they don’t show up on any searches.”
The person who helped OShields was Dane DiEugenio, an intern who’s since gone back to classes at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. During the summer, he wasn’t the only new face at the agency that has supported local mental wellness since 1955.
A friend suggested he call Mental Health America of Fredericksburg. The agency keeps a list of local providers and their availability, and shares information through its HelpLine—540/371-2704 —weekdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
When he reached the MHAfred HelpLine, the young man he spoke with calmly said, “Sir, I’m here to help you, and we’re going to find somebody for you.” OShields, who felt like he was at the end of his rope, found himself being “talked off the ledge,” just as he had done to others during his law enforcement career.