A team of San Mateo County Transit District employees who manage Caltrain have raised nearly $12,000 to help prevent suicides.
The team joined more than 2,000 people on June 9 and 10 in the Out of the Darkness Overnight fundraiser, an 18-mile walk in San Francisco to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Caltrain tracks have been the site of numerous suicides in recent years, including a suicide cluster in Palo Alto that prompted the City of Palo Alto Safety Net Project to address teen depression and mental health crises.
Caltrain has worked with local community organizations to implement suicide-prevention plans, including the Palo Alto Safety Net Project, Santa Clara County Suicide Prevention Advisory Committee and the San Mateo County Suicide Prevention/Intervention Planning Committee.
Suicides on the Caltrain right of way make up only 3 percent of all the deaths caused by suicide in the Peninsula area served by the railroad. But the deaths along the tracks are the focus of public attention because they affect so many people, Caltrain said in an announcement Tuesday regarding the fundraising.
"We are all touched by these tragic incidents on the Caltrain right of way. Suicide is a community mental health issue. As a member of the community, Caltrain is committed to helping to prevent suicide," Executive Director Mike Scanlon said.
In 1996 Caltrain posted "No Trespassing" signs every 1,200 feet along its 55-mile corridor. In 2001 a suicide-prevention sign with a telephone number to a crisis prevention center was added. The signs were redesigned in 2010 as part of a national study to access their effectiveness. This year all the signs, which had begun to fade, were replaced, Caltrain noted.
The Transit Police Bureau, comprised of San Mateo County Sheriff's officers who patrol Caltrain's right of way, have received specialized crisis-intervention training to help recognize people who might be a threat to him or herself and refer to them for appropriate treatment.
Caltrain also sponsored a team in the 2006 Out of the Darkness Overnight, the last time the event was held in San Francisco.