HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Jesse Hepburn and his wife take their pup Ollie for walks in a Hampton park near Darling Stadium every day.

“We try to come out here to get some off-leash exercise just because he’s got a super high energy requirement,” Hepburn said.

But during a walk in April, Ollie started acting unusual around a tree towards the back of the park.

“We looked up and there was a person in the tree, with a rope around his neck,” Hepburn said.

Hepburn says it hit him that this man was moments away from attempting to commit suicide. A photo from that day shows the rope the man used wrapped several times around a thick branch.

“He was so quiet, like he didn’t want to be noticed … I was just like, ‘is everything OK man? Are you doing all right?’ Once I started conversating with him he came down. All I had to do was say something,” explained Hepburn.

Hepburn says he was able to level with him, because he knew what he was going through.

“A lot of times people feel very insecure about what they’re going through … it’s like ‘hey man you’re not alone. I’ve personally dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts. I know how it can feel I know as a person, there can be a lot of shame in dealing with mental health,'” Hepburn said.

Hepburn says the man was thankful he stepped in to help.

During their conversation, he says his wife was able to sneak away and call police.

“I wanted to make sure he got the help he needed, so we waited until they showed up once they pulled up they were very professional and compassionate,” he stated.

Hepburn says he gave the man his number, but didn’t hear from him again after that day. He did hear from police.

Shortly after the incident, he was told to come down to the station, and was awarded the Chief’s Coin for a Citizens Actions.

In a police special report to have him considered for the award, officials wrote, “Hepburn spoke to the victim in a calm and caring manner, convincing him to remove the rope from his neck and come down out of the tree.”

Police say it was later learned while officers were speaking to the victim, that he was an active-duty Navy member who was struggling with work and personal issues. Hepburn’s kindness and willingness to come to someone’s aid that he didn’t know before that day, saved another’s life.

While the coin was a pleasant surprise, Hepburn says the real reward was knowing he was able to intervene at a critical moment.

He hopes this is a lesson to others.

“Slow down and try to be there for people. Give people a safe space to feel what they’re feeling. What they’re feeling is valid it’s a real experience to them. They’re not crazy for it, they just need help and love like everybody else,” Hepburn said.

For information on programs, events, presentations and support groups the National Alliance on Mental Illness offers, click here.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK.