A man jumped into the path of an Orange Line train at Foggy Bottom Metro Station in March. Less than two weeks later, a man jumped in front of a Red Line train at White Flint Station at the tail end of the morning commute. Last month, a man jumped onto the Red Line tracks at Rockville Station.
All three were killed. Since the beginning of 2009, 33 people have deliberately jumped in front of metro trains; 26 died.
As part of a long-discussed suicide prevention program, Metro recently began rolling out a public awareness campaign. The transit agency is hanging signs and posters at station platforms, placing ads on trains and buses and giving public service announcements on the radio and in the Express.
Some signs are already up at stations, such as Shady Grove. Metro expects 13 stations to have signs installed this month, according to Dan Stessel, the agency’s spokesman. Eventually, Metro is expected to have more than 200 signs total at the end of the platforms in all 86 stations.
Metro’s suicide hotline is posted on the signs: 1-855-320-LIFE (5433).
Stessel acknowledged that these efforts “may be limited” if some people are truly determined to harm themselves, but he said the goal is to get this information out in the hope that a suicidal person might reconsider a fatal decision.
Metro will also hang about 300 posters on Metro cars throughout the system. The cost of the campaign includes $11,415 to produce the posters for rail cars and buses and $2,890 to produce the radio ad.
This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. On Monday, a national strategy for preventing suicides was released in a report from the U.S. Surgeon General and of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
Metro’s prevention campaign was proposed in 2009 following a surge in such suicides that year. The program included a $250,000 contract awarded last year in two phases, covering such things as training and communications components.
The transit agency is training its rail operators and station managers are being trained in how to identify suicidal behavior. According to a board presentation earlier this year, 195 train operators had been trained by February, and they hope to have nearly 900 operators and managers trained by the beginning of next year.
Last year, station manager Timothy Lee was honored for twice saving someone from jumping in front of a train in a suicide attempt at Landover Station on the Orange Line.