Management & Operations

Toronto Transit Continues Award-Winning Suicide Prevention Program

Posted on August 19, 2013 by Nicole Schlosser - Also by this author

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) renewed its award-winning suicide prevention program, which it started in partnership with crisis intervention agency Distress Centres in 2011, through July 2018.

The TTC and the Distress Centres extended an agreement to continue the Crisis Link program, which provides platform pay phones near the designated waiting area on each subway that connect people in distress and contemplating suicide with a Distress Centres counselor. Crisis Link calls are free.

When a TTC customer calls Crisis Link from one of the pay phones, a counselor with the Distress Centres can track where on the TTC the call is coming from. The counselor then determines whether the caller is in danger of harming themselves. If they are, the Distress Centres notifies the TTC’s transit control center where subway trains are slowed when entering that station and help for the caller is dispatched.

Since Crisis link was introduced, the Distress Centres have received 218 calls from individuals in distress. Of those, 12% of callers were considered to have suicidal thoughts that required action by the TTC and police. The Distress Centres have handled an average of 2.75 incidents per month of people contemplating suicide on the transit system. No person has ever attempted suicide on the transit system immediately after speaking with a Crisis Link counselor, according to agency officials.

While it is difficult to make a definitive correlation between the reduction of suicide incidents and the Crisis Link program, in 2010, the year prior to Crisis Link implementation, there were 29 suicide incidents on the system, according to the TTC. In 2011, 16 suicide incidents were reported. In 2012, there were 19 suicide incidents, and to date, there have been nine suicide incidents on the transit system in 2013.

TTC’s Crisis Link suicide prevention program provides on each subway platform pay phones that connect people in distress and contemplating suicide with a counselor.
TTC’s Crisis Link suicide prevention program provides on each subway platform pay phones that connect people in distress and contemplating suicide with a counselor.

The agency trains frontline employees on how to identify customers who may be at risk of self-harm — exhibiting behavior such as prolonged crying and pacing on the subway platform — and how to respond, Ryan Duggan, team leader fire safety and emergency planning, TTC, explained.  
“If a subway operator suspects a customer is at risk, they must call the transit control center, [which] will institute a slow order, requiring the train to move at a walking pace through the station,” he added.
Personnel are also trained on how to enter into a discussion with the passenger directly.

Feedback solicited from TTC employees shows that they feel one of the program’s strengths is the advertisement campaign in the subway cars and on the platforms, Duggan said.

“It attempts to remove the stigma around mental health issues and encourages people contemplating suicide to reach out for help without being embarrassed or ashamed,” he added.  

In 2012, Crisis Link won a Corporate Leadership Award from the Canadian Urban Transit Association. The TTC was also the 2011 recipient of the Arnold Devlin Community Service Award, presented by the Ontario Association for Suicide Prevention.

The budget for the five-year program extension is $536,000, according to Duggan, and the TTC has spent approximately $247,000 on the Crisis Link program since 2011.

He noted the program’s expense prevents the costs associated with a suicide, which extend well beyond the incident, including, “most importantly, the physical and psychological short- and long-term effects it has on our customers and employees, but also loss of service, operation of shuttle buses during incident closure and investigation.”

“We feel that if the program has resulted in one life being saved, the amount of money spent will have been justified,” Duggan added.

View comments or post a comment on this story. (0 Comments)

More News

Pace mourns death of Bolton, former deputy exec. director

He passed away in the early hours of April 15, 2017, after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 69.

CATA CEO Draggoo announces plan to retire

She is currently the longest-serving transit CEO in the nation. Her career with the authority spans 43 years, 32 of them as CATA’s CEO.

FTA taps nonprofit to lead mobility-on-demand innovation project

The initiative, which will be lead by the Shared-Use Mobility Center, will focus on helping recipients of FTA’s Mobility On Demand Sandbox program funding demonstrate innovative transportation solutions in 11 cities across the U.S.

WMATA to add free Wi-Fi at 30 rail stations

If plans stay on track, nearly every Red Line station from Union Station to Medical Center will have access to free Wi-Fi and a broad section of the system’s core also should be covered by the end of the year.

METRO, BusCon now accepting Innovative Solutions Award submissions

Applications can be submitted either by the operation or the solutions provider and will be judged by our BusCon Advisory Board, with winners and shortlisted submissions recognized at BusCon’s Award Breakfast on Wednesday, Sept. 13.

See More News

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (0)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment

TruckingInfo.com

THE COMMERCIAL TRUCK INDUSTRY’S MOST IN-DEPTH INFORMATION SOURCE

Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation

Please sign in or register to .    Close