Caltrain, Crisis Text Line announce partnership

Parent of young Palo Alto woman who died by suicide urges others to use, share resource

Starting next week, the now-ubiquitous "There is Help" signs with suicide hotline numbers posted at local Caltrain stations and along the railroad tracks will be joined by a new resource for those in crisis: Crisis Text Line, a free, confidential, 24/7 support service accessible by simply texting the number 741741.

Caltrain and Crisis Text Line announced a new partnership Wednesday at a press conference held outside Palo Alto City Hall. New posters and flyers advertising the text line will be posted at all Caltrain stations and on board trains starting next Monday, Dec. 5, in addition to the 250 "There is Help" signs that were installed several years ago.

"At Caltrain, every death on our rail system sends a ripple of pain through our organization, and that's why we have a longstanding commitment to try and work collaboratively throughout our community to help address the difficult and challenging problem of death by suicide (and) mental health issues in this community," said Caltrain Chief of Staff Mark Simon. "It is a problem that requires a community solution."

Crisis Text Line, a nonprofit that launched in 2013, connects people in crisis with trained volunteers who seek to listen, empathize and validate, then help the texter identify, on their own, coping skills. They also connect texters with local resources and referrals, if appropriate. If a texter is deemed to be at imminent risk for suicide — a person has a plan, method and immediate access to means — the counselor flags the conversation to a supervisor, who has more extensive mental-health training and can call the local authorities to send help in person.

Libby Craig, director of Crisis Text Line's Bay Area efforts and a Gunn High School graduate, described this Wednesday as "strangers helping strangers in their darkest moments."

Crisis Text Line, a service that is anonymous, also collects, aggregates and publicizes data around types of crisis, age range of texters and other trends. In the Bay Area, 75 percent of texters are under the age of 25 years old, Craig said. "School" is the No. 1 location mentioned by suicidal texters, according to Crisis Text Line. And two-thirds of texters have said they shared something with a counselor that they had never shared before.

Craig added that "human-to-human interaction will never be replaced by technology, but we believe in utilizing it to help us be more efficient and more effective."

Sally Longyear, whose daughter, a Gunn graduate, died by suicide at Caltrain in April, urged others to use and proliferate the text-based resource. She described texting with friends as a critical source of support and encouragement for her daughter as she struggled with anxiety, depression, insomnia and physical illness.

It would have been helpful for not only her daughter to have known about Crisis Text Line as a resource, but also Longyear herself and her daughter's friends, who were unsure how to respond and help, she said.

"I urge all of you who know someone who is hurting inside not to hesitate to ask for help," Longyear told a small crowd gathered outside City Hall for the press conference. "It's the right thing to do. If you have a friend in need who confides in you, do not be afraid to break that confidence. That's the right thing to do."

Simon said that "intervention at the front end can often be a life-changing event for everybody involved," noting that transit police trained in crisis intervention save dozens of people per year along the Caltrain corridor.

Crisis Text Line is also now partnering with Palo Alto youth well-being collaborative Project Safety Net. The group's executive director, Mary Gloner, said the partnership adds to the fabric of a growing "safety net" for youth in Palo Alto and beyond.

"As one young person shared with me, 'Crisis Text Line places an emphasis on providing help to everybody, any time and anywhere,'" Gloner said. "The ability for people to seek help whenever they need it is extremely important. It spreads the message that help is always available and that someone is willing to listen."

Other new local partnerships with Crisis Text Line include Children's Health Council in Palo Alto; nonprofit Adolescent Counseling Services, which provides on-campus counseling at Palo Alto Unified School District's middle and high schools; and SafeSpace, a new youth mental health clinic opening in Menlo Park.

People can reach trained Crisis Text Line counselors by texting "BAY" to 741741.


Any person who is feeling depressed, troubled or suicidal can also call 1-800-784-2433 to speak with a crisis counselor. People in Santa Clara County can call 1-855-278-4204. Spanish speakers can call 1-888-628-9454.

Links below provide more resources where one can receive help:

Resources: How to help those in crisis

Guest opinion: How to help those in crisis

Q&A about mental health: Local experts offer their advice, guidance


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4 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2016 at 2:13 pm

I think it is great for Caltrain to be supporting this service, but shouldn't the signs be posted in more places than just the train tracks? How about around school and other places where kids can see them before they get desperate.

7 people like this
Posted by Sarah1000
a resident of Los Altos
on Nov 30, 2016 at 2:22 pm

Sarah1000 is a registered user.

As the parent of a 19 year old who has major depressive disorder, I thank Sally for her bravery in speaking about her daughter's death in order to help my child. Blessings to you.

6 people like this
Posted by DB Cooper
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 30, 2016 at 2:56 pm

Is there any evidence that these posters and flyers work? Have they studied this in other places and seen a decrease in suicides? A real reporter would ask Mark Simon that question. And if he says "No," then ask him why we're wasting our tax dollars on something that's unproven. Maybe this is just a way to make people feel good -- to make them believe that Caltrain is doing something about the suicides. I'd like it if Simon had the guts to say, "We run a railroad, [portion removed] and we're not responsible for people jumping in front of our trains. That's for you people to figure out." That will never happen, and the censor will probably delete this comment because it's not politically correct. But this isn't Caltrain's job.

5 people like this
Posted by DLS
a resident of Los Altos
on Nov 30, 2016 at 3:25 pm

I'd like to thank Sally especially for sharing her painful story to help others.

DB Cooper, I think Caltrain expressed very well why they participate in efforts to reduce suicides along their tracks -- "every death on our rail system sends a ripple of pain through our organization".

41 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 30, 2016 at 3:28 pm

@DB Cooper:

Read the Crisis Text Line article from July (it's the first hyperlink in this story). It sounds like the Crisis Text Line does reach out and have effect for some since its inception in 2013.

It should be reiterated that Caltrain is not running this service.

They are partnering with an existing organization of 1500 counselors that works in all 295 area codes in the United States and the training & commitment is not insignificant.

Caltrain itself cannot help mental health issues but they do have a vested interest in providing a certain amount of resources and effort to let troubled people know that there is help rather than just let these people run amok on the Caltrain right-of-way. Too many facilities has a negative impact on Caltrain, not just inconveniencing the riders and staff of an affected train, but impacting other transit systems, friends and family of riders, as well as increasing costs due to investigations, cleanup, etc.

And at what point does Caltrain need to take measures? When they reach 30 fatalities a year? 50? 100?

As a public transit agency, the Joint Powers Board does need to make some sort of effort to maintain a respectable image amongst the community to ensure that the public can feel happy about using the transit system.

1 person likes this
Posted by DB Cooper
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 30, 2016 at 3:40 pm

@Reader from Mountain View, thanks for confirming what I thought all along.

22 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Nov 30, 2016 at 3:53 pm

Yes, people do apparently call those hotlines, and the security guards have identified troubled individuals as well.

If no suicide prevention service worked, there would be none. Humans have been committing suicide for a really really long time.

The fact of the matter is that these services -- while unable to eliminate suicides -- do have some noticeable effect. That's why they exist, not just here in the lil' ol' SF Peninsula, but all over the world.

1 person likes this
Posted by Amando
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 30, 2016 at 8:29 pm

I think @DB Cooper asks a reasonable question -- what's the evidence that this program will work? If there is no evidence, like a study, then this is just a PR gesture to make people feel better.

7 people like this
Posted by Crisis Counselor
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2016 at 10:12 pm

Crisis Text Line is primarily a volunteer organization. We field calls (text-only) from people going through various crisis situations. Suicide is not the only issue that texters are dealing with, but it is fairly commonly discussed in our conversations. Personally, I have fielded dozens of conversations dealing with suicide or at least "pre-suicidal thoughts," such as high anxiety, questioning the value of life, etc.

Do we save everyone? Perhaps not. But we act as a resource that some people really appreciate. I have had many texters tell me that I have given them hope or made them feel better about themselves.

Interested in joining us? We are always looking to add to our network of trained volunteer Crisis Counselors. It's not a job for everyone. And there is no monetary compensation. But it does feel good to know you're helping people who really need help...

See the following for more info on CTL's involvement in the local area:
Web Link

As for including information about this service in other locations, we are doing what we can. Please feel free to help.

2 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Los Altos
on Nov 30, 2016 at 10:55 pm

Thank you for this article and thank you to the volunteers who interact with people in crisis. Your work is much needed and appreciated by me and my family.

Like this comment
Posted by Question
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 1, 2016 at 7:50 am

I would like to know more about those who respond to the texts (or phone calls). Are these trained volunteers or professional types? What exactly can they say in response? Are they just listeners or able to give helpful advice and what type of advice are they giving?

The Samaritins have had suicide helplines for a long time and their help has always been a friendly, compassionate voice at the other end of the phone. As good as the teens being able to text their thoughts, how can a friendly, compassionate text do the same as a caring human voice in response?

10 people like this
Posted by Crisis Counselor
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2016 at 9:20 am

Good question from "Question" ;-)

The training for volunteers at Crisis Text Line is very rigorous. It was much more thorough than I had expected when I signed up. And the majority of people who sign up ending up dropping out. It's not someone that just anyone can do. It requires compassion and an understanding of the various possible crisis situations texters may be facing.

Many of the Crisis Counselors are studying psychology. But certainly not all of them/us. We have an online portal where we can communicate with other Counselors and a supervisor. We also have access to tons of information at our fingertips in case we want to refer the texter to a voice line, etc.

Yes, a warm voice is often better than a cold text. But so many people these days - particularly the younger ones - are more comfortable texting. And it is something they can do more discretely.

Interested in becoming a volunteer with us?
Web Link

7 people like this
Posted by Dr. Philippe Rey
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 1, 2016 at 3:55 pm

Adolescent Counseling Services is proud to have partnered with the Crisis Text Line in an effort to offer additional support and services to teens and family members in crisis. This is a great service for all year round but especially during the Holiday Season when people dealing with mental and emotional illnesses struggle a lot.
Thank you Crisis Text Line for the lifeline you offer many!
Dr. Philippe Rey
Executive Director
Adolescent Counseling Services

2 people like this
Posted by Mr. Cooper is right
a resident of another community
on Dec 1, 2016 at 4:33 pm

I find myself agreeing with D. B. Cooper.

The suicide hotline signs have been up along the tracks for the better part of 20 years. Is there any evidence they do any good?

Suicide is a very personal decision, and sad as it may be for survivors, not everybody wants to be saved.

Caltrain should focus on running trains and increasing capacity so fewer passengers have to stand.

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

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