Caltrain installs new suicide prevention signs by train tracks

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Caltrain is replacing suicide prevention signs along its tracks in an effort to make it easier for people to reach help.

The rail agency also announced Monday it has joined a study by the American Association of Suicidology, which will investigate the effectiveness of suicide prevention signs on the Caltrain tracks and two other railroad lines on the East Coast.

“For the first time, we’re going to be tracking the calls,” Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said. “People have put these kinds of signs up all over the country and nobody has ever really tested to see whether they’re working or not.”

Seven people have died on the Caltrain tracks so far this year. Between May 2009 and January 2010, five students with ties to Gunn High School in Palo Alto died on the tracks in high-profile suicides.

“Whenever a fatality occurs, we are profoundly saddened,” Caltrain Board Member Omar Ahmad said in a statement. “As a member of the community it is important for Caltrain to participate in the community effort to address this complex and troubling problem.”

The 250 new signs, which Caltrain began installing Monday, will be placed about 525 feet apart along a 10-mile stretch of track between Mountain View and Menlo Park. They read “There is help” and depict an image of hands clasping. The signs will cost Caltrain $110,000.

The signs that are being replaced direct callers to 1-800-SUICIDE, a national hotline, while the new ones have a direct phone number for the Family Services Crisis Intervention Center in San Carlos — 650-579-0355. Most of the calls to the national hotline were already referred to the San Carlos center, Dunn said. Representatives at the crisis center will ask callers their location and track where the calls are coming from, she added.

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