The Point: RCTC staff learn to identify warning signs of suicide near rail and highway facilities

In 2020, the California Department of Public Health reported 4,143 suicides, roughly 10.4 suicides per 100,000 people and nearly twice as many suicides as homicides. Although nationally less than 1% of suicides occur within the railroad system, locally a majority of fatalities on railroad tracks are deliberate acts including suicide. This has a devasting regional impact on family, friends, train crews, passengers, and emergency responders. Many local agencies are working closely together to try to reduce these incidents.

As the owner and operator of Metrolink stations in Riverside County, RCTC recognizes the importance of railroad track safety and has been a partner with California Operation Lifesaver since 2014 to discourage trespassing along the railroad corridor. In early March, RCTC staff took part in Trespass and Suicide Prevention training sessions to learn how to identify warning signs of suicide and ways to intervene.

Led by licensed University of Denver psychologists and researchers, Dr. Patrick Sherry and Dr. Andi Pusavat, the training reviewed factors that contribute to a greater likelihood of suicide such as depression, life events, and substance abuse. Staff learned an intervention model to help those at risk for suicide on railroad property, highway overpasses, and in general situations. This intervention model includes six components: identifying unusual behavior, ensuring personal safety, assessing the risk level, asking questions, offering hope, and bringing in local resources.

During the 2020 September National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, RCTC installed Suicide Prevention Lifeline signs at the nine Metrolink stations in Riverside County and along the railroad tracks in Riverside and Perris. RCTC continues to partner locally with California Operation Lifesaver to teach the dangers of trespassing on railroad tracks using presentations, social media posts, videos, and other outreach efforts.

Young woman on her phone near train tracks with 988 information displayed

Everyone can play a role in suicide prevention by learning the warning signs of suicide, finding the words to reach out, and knowing where to turn for help.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a suicidal or mental health crisis, call or text the new National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support in English and Spanish.

Learn more about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by visiting Suicide is preventable, treatments exist, and there is hope.

In addition, please remember when you See Tracks, Think Trains. Stay off the tracks and stay safe.