Fast trains, holiday depression and thoughts of suicide can be a deadly combination, but local commuter rail officials on Wednesday renewed a campaign aimed at saving people from themselves.
“People attempt suicide because they’re in terrible psychological pain and can’t think of any other solution,” said Kita S. Curry, president and CEO of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, which is partnering with Metro and Metrolink in the campaign to prevent suicide.
“We know this because calls to our crisis line from people contemplating suicide — and worried friends and family — increase every time the number is advertised,” Curry said. “If we all learn the warning signs of suicide and how to respond, we can save lives.”
The anti-suicide campaign with Metro and Metrolink began last year. Metro officials noted that there has been only one suicide on the Metro rail system since the beginning of the campaign — which includes signs posted on trains and at stations with crisis line phone numbers and the message of “Reach Out. There is help.”
“While even one is took many, Metro’s and Didi Hirsch’s efforts have saved many lives,” Metro CEO Art Leahy said.
Metrolink officials said they installed signs throughout its train system in November to convey the message.
“Metrolink’s first and foremost priority is safety, and sadly, this agency has dealt with loss of life far too often,” Metrolink board chair and Highland Mayor Pro Tem Larry McCallon said. “But there is an area beyond our scope of expertise and because of that, we need people to know there is help long before getting near our tracks or trains.”
In 2012, 19 people died by suicides involving Metrolink trains. That number has been lowered to four this year, according to Metrolink.
Agency officials said that in addition to the crisis-line signs, it has also trained employees to identify warning signs of suicide and trained them on how to react if they come across a person in distress. Metrolink also increased its involvement with Operation Lifesaver to bolster anti-suicide outreach efforts in schools.
According to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, nearly 100 people have committed suicide in the county since 1991 by putting themselves in the path of a Metro, Metrolink, Amtrak, Union Pacific or BNSF train.
The Didi Hirsch helpline is at (877) 727-4747. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is (800) 273-8255 (TALK).
— City News Service