Every year, millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental illness. Indianapolis International Airport (IND) TSA Officer Latwaina Bean saw this first-hand while leaving the airport after finishing an early morning shift.
Bean and a coworker spotted an unattended bag in IND’s parking garage, and while Bean was on the phone with the IND Coordination Center to report it, a Southwest Airlines employee and a young lady approached her. Just moments earlier, the young lady threatened to jump off the fifth floor of the parking garage.
“The [Southwest] employee came to me and said, ‘I just got her off the ledge,’ and asked if I could help her,” Bean recalled. “I said, ‘Yes. I will stay with her and get her some help.’ I immediately called the Coordination Center and reported the situation and asked for assistance. As we waited, I had a conversation with her, kept her calm and let her know help was on the way.”
The woman told Bean how unhappy she was with life and that she was hungry, homeless and had no place to go.
“My mother instincts kicked in, and I thought about how this could have been my child,” said Bean, who joined TSA in February 2020. “I had to get her to trust me and talk to her until airport police arrived. I had to show her I was concerned and would stay with her until someone came. I believe she was reaching out for help and needed someone to just care and listen.”
Bean listened and offered her lunch and a bottle of water to the woman, staying with the young lady until airport police came.
“I wanted her to know I cared about her well-being,” Bean said.
TSA Officer Karen Kennedy took notice, saying the situation could have been catastrophic.
“Not only did she potentially save a life; she thwarted an incident that could have been so much worse for the airport and other passengers who may have been affected,” said Kennedy. “Officer Bean’s response to this situation tells me a lot about her character. She is a very caring and unselfish person. The world could use more people like her.”
For her actions, Kennedy submitted an On-The-Spot (monetary) Award for Bean, which Indiana Assistant Federal Security Director for Screening Kevin Bidwell quickly approved.
“We are very proud of her actions,” Bidwell said. “The actions she took were incredible, and acknowledging her is the least we could do. Latwaina is an exceptional individual, and we commend her for the level of professionalism she exhibited.”
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and TSA is joining the national movement to raise awareness of mental health issues affecting all of us, including TSA employees and their families.
“You never know what others are going through behind their smile,” said Bidwell. “Be human first. We continue to leverage and promote suicide prevention training, an employee assistance program and other support services for TSA employees.”
Bean added, “If you are suffering with mental health issues or any problems, please reach out to someone you know, and if you are not able to talk to them, call 211 (Essential Community Services hotline). Please reach out to someone you can trust or be comfortable with sharing your information.
“Always See Something, Say Something. You never know whose life you may be saving or what situation you are taking someone out of.”
By Don Wagner, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs
Editor’s Note: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support for people in distress and prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones. If you need help, please call 1-800-273-8255.