septa suicide

The unveiling of signs for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at SEPTA’s Norristown Transportation Center. From left to right are Leslie Richards, Montgomery County Commissioner and SEPTA Board member; Gabriel Nathan, MCES development specialist; and Scott Sauer, SEPTA’s Chief Officer of System Safety. SEPTA is partnering with a local crisis response center to bring more attention to suicide and that help is available for people contemplating taking their own lives. —Photograph from SEPTA

SEPTA is partnering with a local crisis response center to bring more attention to suicide and advise that help is available for people contemplating taking their own lives.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Signs were unveiled at SEPTA’s Norristown Transportation Center this month. They let the public know that assistance is available for those contemplating suicide via the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-(800) 273-TALK. The signs were installed in the Manayunk/Norristown Line boarding areas as part of a pilot program partnership between SEPTA and Montgomery County Emergency Service, Inc. (MCES), a nonprofit crisis psychiatric response center in West Norriton.

The local crisis hotline is part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s national network of 163 response centers. Illness, financial hardship, or family crises — the reasons that lead someone to commit suicide are varied and, in some cases, never known. Actor and comedian Robin Williams took his own life in August. It later became known that Williams was depressed after having learned he had Parkinson’s disease.

“The partnership with SEPTA and MCES is natural,” said Scott Sauer, SEPTA’s chief officer of system safety. “Approximately 50 percent of the fatalities on SEPTA’s rail system each year are ruled suicides. By placing the Lifeline signs at our stations, we believe that people who might think suicide is their only option will see that help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year.”

The MCES crisis call center answers approximately 4,500 calls each year. The organization also has a walk-in crisis center that never closes, with a psychiatrist on duty at all times; an inpatient hospital for voluntary and involuntary admissions to assess, treat, stabilize and educate patients; and one of the nation’s only hospital-based psychiatric emergency medical services (EMS) squads. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), a suicide occurs in the U.S. every 13 minutes. In 2011 (the last year for which national statistics are available), there were more than 39,500 reported suicides in the U.S., making it the nation’s 10th leading cause of death.

“MCES responds to and treats individuals day in and day out who are struggling with suicidal ideation or who have made an attempt,” said MCES development specialist Gabriel Nathan. “The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a tremendous resource for people who are in need in a desperate time. We are proud to partner with Lifeline and with SEPTA in this invaluable and tangible effort to prevent suicide, and to connect people with the help and hope they need.”

By installing the signs, SEPTA joins transit systems in New York, Boston and Toronto in creating awareness of suicide helplines through notices posted at their stations. SEPTA plans to roll out Lifeline informational signs at locations across the system over the next year.

“We will start by identifying areas where we have responded to suicides or attempted suicides and place signs at these key stations,” said Sauer. “We want to get this important message to as many people across our five-county service area as possible.”

For more information about MCES, the crisis call center and assistance available for those struggling with suicidal ideation, call (610)-279-6100.

Contact staff writer

Larry Miller

at (215) 893-5747

or lmiller@phillytrib.com

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