One evening a couple of weeks ago, the staff at The Local were leaving the office for the day. But just as he was shutting down his computer, managing director Paul Rapacioli received an email.
“It said ‘Please read and take seriously’ in the subject box,” said Rapacioli.
“At first I assumed it was junk mail – we get an awful lot of junk mail and they usually start in a similar way.”
But he noticed the word ‘Sweden’ in the text and read the email. It had been sent from a young man in the US who, moments before, had been chatting online to a girl in Sweden.
The email contained a transcript of the conversation, in which the girl said she had taken an overdose of painkillers. It also had the girl’s name and address.
“The guy who sent the email obviously didn’t speak Swedish and said he didn’t know who else to contact in Sweden. He asked if we could help, perhaps by contacting the police in the area,” said Rapacioli.
“We still weren’t sure that it was serious,” he admitted.
Nevertheless, Rapacioli contacted the emergency services, who took the report seriously. A police patrol unit went immediately to the girl’s apartment.
The following day, police in the town west of Stockholm confirmed that she had been taken directly to the local hospital’s casualty ward.
“She was very poorly when we found her and an ambulance took her to hospital,” said police spokesman Ulf Palm.
Palm said that the process which led to the report was “incredible”.
“I’ve never heard of anything like that before,” he said.
The press spokesman at SOS Alarm, the organisation which handles emergency calls in Sweden, agreed.
“This is certainly the first time this sort of thing has been reported,” said Anders Klarström.
He emphasised that e-mail is not the ideal method for reporting emergencies, since there is no guarantee that the message will arrive – or be read immediately. But he also said that the case shows how important it is that people don’t ignore appeals for help.
“If in doubt, you must ring 112 – contact the police and let them make a decision,” said Klarström.
The girl mentioned in this article is now out of intensive care and is recovering in hospital. At her request her identity has not been revealed.
In an emergency, call 112.
If you are feeling depressed or lonely and would like to talk to someone, there are a number of helplines in Sweden:
Every night 21.00-06.00
Tel:08-702 16 80
Sat-Sun 14.00 – 18.00
Tel: 020-222 444
Every night 22.00-06.00
Every night 20.00-23.00
Tel: 08 – 31 00 18
Tel: 020-22 00 60