Media Contact: Christine Dunn, 650.508.6238
Caltrain kicked off its annual rail safety observance today with the adoption of a proclamation declaring September Railroad Safety Month.
This year the commuter railroad will highlight its continuing efforts to address death by a suicide, a complex community health issue. Nearly 40,000 suicides were reported throughout the United States in 2011, making suicide the 10thleading cause of death for Americans.
For the past 20 years there has been an average of 13 deaths a year on the Caltrain right of way; the majority of these were caused by suicide. Although suicides on the Caltrain right of way make up only 3 percent of suicides in the Peninsula region, they are the focus of public attention because they impact so many people.
As a member of the community, Caltrain is committed to working with community partners to prevent suicide and lift the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Stephen Kaplan, director of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services for San Mateo County, who accepted the proclamation, said,
“Preventing suicide requires a broad community approach,” said Stephen Kaplan, Director of San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services. “We highly value our partnership with Caltrain and applaud their efforts to educate their riders and make help and crisis line information highly visible. These efforts have, and will continue to assist people in getting the help they need at a most critical time.”
To provide another resource to the community, Caltrain will introduce a new page on its website dedicated to suicide-prevention. The page, which will launch at the end of September, will feature a crisis hotline number and highlight local resources for people. A list of guidelines developed by mental health professionals for the media outlining the most effective way to cover suicide also will be available on the website.
Caltrain’s website received 779,678 visits in August alone and a total of 7,055,945 in 2013. “We hope that this message will reach a new audience that might not be aware of these resources,” said Executive Officer of Public Affairs Mark Simon. “All of us are touched in one way or another by suicide, whether we ride the train or have a friend or family member who may be struggling with mental health issues. By posting this information on our website we are creating another opportunity to have an honest dialog about this very painful subject and to let people know that there is hope and help.”
Over the years, Caltrain has worked to address the issue of death by suicide in a variety of ways. In 2001, signs were posted along the 55-mile rail corridor with a s with a telephone number to a crisis prevention center and the message that help is available. In 2010, the signs were redesigned as part of a national study to assess their effectiveness. In 2012, all the signs, which had begun to fade, were replaced.
Since 2005, Caltrain staff have been active participants in mental health task forces and suicide prevention activities with officials from San Mateo and Santa Clara counties and Palo Alto.
The Transit Police Bureau, comprised of San Mateo County Sheriff’s officers, is responsible for policing Caltrain property. These highly-skilled law enforcement professionals have received specialized Crisis Intervention Training to help them recognize people who may be a threat to themselves and refer them for appropriate treatment. In 2013, transit police conducted 23 of these interventions on the Caltrain right of way.
In 2012, a team of San Mateo County Transit District employees, who also manage Caltrain, raised nearly $12,000 to prevent suicides. The team joined more than 2,000 people in the Out of the Darkness Overnight, an 18-mile walk in San Francisco to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The San Francisco Caltrain Station was the half-way point for the event.
About Caltrain: Owned and operated by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, Caltrain provides commuter rail service from San Francisco to San Jose, with limited commute service to Gilroy. Caltrain has enjoyed nearly four years of consecutive monthly ridership increases, surpassing more than 50,000 average weekday riders earlier this year. While the Joint Powers Board assumed operating responsibilities for the service in 1992, the railroad will celebrate 150 years of continuous passenger service in 2014. Planning for the next 150 years of Peninsula rail service, Caltrain is on pace to electrify the corridor by 2019, reducing diesel emissions by 84 percent and adding more service to more stations.