Caltrain posts new suicide-prevention signs

Hotline calls to be tracked as part of nationwide study on signs' effectiveness

Suicide-prevention signs along the Caltrain tracks will be updated as part of a nation-wide study on whether they are effective.

Caltrain will spend $110,000 to erect 250 new "There is Help" signs along a 10-mile stretch that includes Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Mountain View, Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.

Calls to the crisis hotline number on the signs will be tracked in an attempt to measure whether the signs actually help to prevent suicides.

The phone number listed on the signs belongs to Youth and Family Enrichment Services of San Carlos, Dunn said.

The initiative is part of a larger study by the American Association of Suicidology to measure the effectiveness of suicide-prevention signs. The study also includes signs along train right-of-ways on the east coast, Dunn said.

A "very small number" of local suicides actually are committed on Caltrain, but the agency is trying to do its part in what is a community-wide problem, Dunn said.

Of the 299 suicides logged in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties from 2006 to 2008, 27 were on the Caltrain tracks, she said.

In the aftermath of five Palo Alto student suicides on the tracks from May 2009 to January 2010, Caltrain has worked with Palo Alto's Project Safety Net as well as with suicide-prevention authorities in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

The new signs, to be unveiled next week, replace an older set of signs along Caltrain's right-of-way that offered the crisis hotline number 1-800-SUICIDE.

"One of the problems with that is that, with some of the new cell phones that's no longer useful because they don't have the letters on them so it's of no benefit.

"Also, this time we've partnered with a local crisis-intervention center to take the calls, and that enables us to track them and determine whether the signs are effective or not," Dunn said.

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Like this comment
Posted by Finnaly
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 24, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Finally, We have been asking them to change the signs since late October 2010. Also they should be bigger. We even asked them to have a telephone on the sites so people can contact someone from the suicide prevention hot line without having to dial any number. A person who is emotionally distress might not be able to dial the phone number, and if a minor is calling, he or she might be afraid that their parents will know they call this place. I know it costs a lot of money, but our people's lives, especially kids' are worth it every cent. Too bad more people had to die before they change the signs. I guess more people have to die before they put the phones.

Like this comment
Posted by Monsignor
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 24, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Wow. $110,000. Was there ever any evidence that these signs prevented anything?

"One of the problems with that is that, with some of the new cell phones that's no longer useful because they don't have the letters on them so it's of no benefit."

What a joke. All 'newfangled' cell phones include the letters somewhere. Is this how desperate for false explanations have you become?

Like this comment
Posted by homegirl
a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2010 at 9:16 pm

The same exact signs have been posted @ the Rengstorff crossing for years and years. One would think, and hope that all crossings would have such signage.

Like this comment
Posted by Michelle
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 24, 2010 at 11:19 pm

If someone went through all the trouble of getting to the tracks to take his/her life, do you really think a measly sign is going to stop him/her? The previous signs certainly didn't seem to do anything.

....and how does it take $110,000? I'm sure there was a better use for the money (like funding education?).

Like this comment
Posted by Suicidal teen in the 80s
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2010 at 1:51 am

Those signs nor a phone with instant connection will not work. The phone will receive pranks. Better off leaving flyers in an acrylic box so they can take them home with the number and info on it. Still, kids might be too embarrassed to take a flyer.

Best would be to distribute business cards to classrooms so kids can tuck them away at home and refer to them if they need to. By the time a kid reaches the tracks, it can be too late or they have a temporary loss of insanity and just impulsively jump.

If parents would just respect their children and spend time with them, kids wouldn't be so depressed. Too many parents who are too busy for their children these days. Don't expect them to respect you if all you do is nag or insult them. Remember them as innocent babies - they still need you and your positive attention. Children need praise. Everyone needs praise. The world would be better with more praise.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 25, 2010 at 3:40 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I know what OSHA would say about it if a manufacturer merely put up signs warning of a danger rather than taking every feasible measure to mitigate that hazard. How about if, on freeways, instead of center dividers they just had signs "Danger, crossing center dividers can be hazardous - call AAA for further information."

Like this comment
Posted by Barron Park Parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 25, 2010 at 10:49 am

The signs have been hanging at Meadow and Charleston for a long time. I is great that they are getting updated but really rather absurd that it should cost that much money.

If they want to prevent suicides in Palo Alto they need to secure the tracks. That means: secure and effective fencing; lights on the track;area surrounding the track cleared of foliage so the area becomes self policing. $100k could go along way in that direction if it were spend correctly.

CalTrain wants to look like it is doing something. They have done more than nothing, but they have not done as much as they can. They have acted, but without passion and commitment. Passion and commitment means spending available funds wisely. It means getting the most for their money, not the least. It could also mean asking for volunteers to help fix the fencing and lighting so that the funds would go to materials.It means really trying and caring not just hiring high priced contractors to do something that should be done for a lot less.

Like this comment
Posted by LAHscot
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 25, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Install blue-light phones while you are at it, please - the ones like you see at Stanford for emergency assistance ...and next to the signs. I certainly hope these signs are well-lighted as "after 9pm" seems to be the most common time.

Like this comment
Posted by Suicidal teen in the 80s
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2010 at 10:05 pm

LOL Walter's comments regarding signs.

Secure the tracks? And then what? Secure the freeways, pill cabinets, kitchen knives?

CalTrain is not responsible for the suicides. Schools are not responsible for the suicides.

Parents are responsible for their children's happiness. Too many parents waiting for the day that their children move out of the house. Quit the complacency, nagging and insults. Respect your children, praise them, talk to them, give them your time. Children always want the approval of parents. QUIT IGNORING YOUR CHILDREN.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2010 at 4:25 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

S/T, how many people have jumped off the Dumbarton bridge? While I don't presume to guess why the tracks have been selected so often for someone's final statement I suggest that availability and certainty are a component. I lack the hubris to attempt altering another's state of mind but there are engineering solutions to availability and certainty. Go where the gold is.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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