Health

Signs helped reduce suicide by train in Los Angeles, officials say

L.A. Metro posted about 370 of these suicide prevention signs with crisis lines at rail stops in 2013 after at least six people the year before killed themselves by stepping in front of trains.
L.A. Metro posted about 370 of these suicide prevention signs with crisis lines at rail stops in 2013 after at least six people the year before killed themselves by stepping in front of trains.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC

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Two years ago, a spike in the number of people who jumped in front of trains prompted transportation officials to begin suicide prevention campaign.

The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Metrolink and partnered with the Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center, posting the center's crisis hotline number on signs and posters at train station stops.

Huge black and yellow lettering on the sides of Metro rail cars warn drivers and pedestrians to "Watch For Train," "Heads Up," and "Don't Run."

In the past year, 130 people who saw the signs called the Didi Hirsch Crisis Line for help, official said at a news conference in earlier this month.

Suicide numbers are also down from their 2012 highs - though it's hard to say definitively whether the signs are the cause.

Metrolink reported 19 suicides in 2012. This year, they are down to four.

Six people committee suicide on Metro rail lines in fiscal year 2012. The agency reports there has only been one since then. But there was also only one reported in 2011, before the signs went up. In 2012, 3 people committed suicide on its tracks.

“People attempt suicide because they’re in terrible psychological pain and can’t think of any other solution,” said Kita S. Curry, President and CEO of Didi Hirsch. “We know this because calls to our Crisis Line from people contemplating suicide—and worried friends and family —increase every time the number is advertised. If we all learn the warning signs of suicide and how to respond, we can save lives.”

Keyanna Kingstro of Compton said she attempted suicide by drug overdose in 2009 while waiting for the bus in South Los Angeles.

"I just kept stuffing it and stuffing it," Kingstro said as she got off the blue line recently. "I was like, 'I can't talk to anybody about this. I'm just going to do it.'"

She said a boy found her on bench and shook her awake. It still haunts her.

"It needs to be talked about more," Kingstro said.

Now, she said she uses the suicide prevention hotlines when depression overwhelms her.