Metra is partnering with several mental health organizations to install suicide prevention signs on station platforms along each of its 11 lines.
There have been 16 apparent suicides on Metra lines this year, said Michael Gillis, Metra’s director of media relations. Last year, there were 20 apparent suicides, and in 2015, there were 19, he said.
“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 formed a partnership with the McHenry County Mental Health Board, the DuPage Railroad Safety Council, the Lake County Board of Health and other members of the mental health community to develop the signs, according to a news release from Metra.
The signs will list a suicide prevention hotline phone number, and they will be finalized at a mental health awareness symposium hosted by Metra in September, which is Suicide Prevention Month, according to the release.
Along with the hotline number, Metra wants to add a message of hope to the sign, which is something Gillis is hoping mental health organizations can help with.
“We’re good at running a railroad,” Gillis said, “but we aren’t mental health experts.”
Metra aims to place signs in stations and along platforms by the end of the year, according to the release.
Other plans include training for front-line employees, including engineers, conductors, ticket agents, customer service representatives and transportation managers.
Employees are trained using the Question, Persuade, Refer training method, which teaches participants how to recognize a person in despair and how to intervene. The training began in 2015 and since then has educated more than 350 Metra employees, according to the release.