Metra is moving forward with a plan to develop and install suicide prevention signs on station platforms along each of its 11 lines.
In a presentation given at its monthly Board of Directors meeting, Metra’s Chief Safety and Environmental Officer Hilary Konczal unveiled plans to initially 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 signs featuring a suicide prevention hotline phone number that an individual who may be depressed, feeling hopeless, or suicidal can call for help. This is the first time the agency has committed to installing signs as part of a more comprehensive suicide prevention initiative launched earlier this year.
“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,” said Metra Board Chairman Norman Carlson. “This is a crisis in need of a long-term solution.”
The signs will be developed and finalized as part of a Mental Health Awareness Symposium to be hosted by Metra in September to coincide with National Suicide Awareness Month. The goal of the symposium will be to develop a short-term action plan with Metra’s stakeholders, expanding its current suicide prevention efforts to include installation of signs in stations and on station platforms by the end of 2017. Other outreach and awareness initiatives, including partnerships with local mental health organizations, will also be explored.
Other aspects of Metra’s suicide prevention initiative include training for frontline employees, including engineers, conductors, ticket agents, customer service representatives, and transportation managers on how to recognize individuals in despair and how to intervene. The training, which began in 2015, teaches employees how to identify and approach people who may be suicidal and bring them to safety so they can get the help they need. To date, more than 350 Metra employees have participated in suicide awareness and prevention training.
Metra also promotes railroad safety through its annual Safety Poster and Essay Contest for the region’s schoolchildren and conducts nearly 1,000 free Operation Lifesaver presentations annually to schools, community groups, school bus drivers, professional truck drivers, emergency responders, and other organizations throughout the region.