Metra is in the early stages of a plan to install signs aimed at helping suicidal people on station platforms along each of its 11 lines, the rail agency says.
The initiative was unveiled in a July meeting of Metra’s board of directors and aims to partner with the DuPage Railroad Safety Council, the McHenry County Mental Health Board, the Lake County Health Department and “other members of the mental health community” to develop the signs.
“When someone dies on our tracks, it affects so many people – from the victim and their family to our engineers, conductors and first responders, to the customers who can be delayed on the train for up to three hours,” Metra Board Chairman Norman Carlson said in a statement. “This is a crisis in need of a long-term solution.”
Metra officials hope to have the signs finalized by September to coincide with National Suicide Awareness month.
The wording on the signs will offer a suicide prevention hotline number for anyone who might be at risk of suicidal acts.
Metra spokeswoman Meg Reile stressed the early stages of the plan and said the agency is talking with health officials to identify the proper language to use on the signs.
“We’re not mental health experts, we’re a railroad,” she said.
The signs, however, are not Metra’s first effort to dissuade suicide attempts on the tracks.
For example, many front-line Metra employees, workers who are on the platforms and rails every day, have been trained to identify people who might be in a state of distress. This can be as simple as noticing individuals who are “lingering too long” on train platforms, Reile said.
More than 350 Metra employees have participated in suicide awareness and prevention training, officials say.
“We can’t do this alone,” said Metra’s Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno in a statement. “We need the insight and expertise of professional mental health care providers in our area to work with us on solutions designed to reverse this trend.”
Metra says it will also be exploring other awareness initiatives such as partnering with local mental health organizations.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.