Metro report: Nearly one-third survive suicide by train attempt

By |
Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Transportation,Kytja Weir

A 37-year-old woman who jumped in front of a Yellow Line Metro train joined a long list of Metro riders who have tried to use the system to kill themselves.

She was the 60th person since 2005 to try to commit suicide by getting in front of moving trains, according to a new Metro report. An untold number have jumped from the agency's parking garages.

But she was among the nearly one-third who survived. The woman suffered a "severe foot injury" with one foot amputated after she placed herself in front of a train Saturday evening, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said. She is otherwise expected to recover.

Need help?
The American Association of Suicidology says the best intervention comes before a person heads to the subway. The group urges friends, family and co-workers to take seriously warning signs that include:
» Increased alcohol or drug use
» No reason for living or lack of sense of purpose
» Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
» Withdrawal from friends, family and society
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's toll-free number, 800-273-TALK (8255), for direct help or guidance on how to intervene.

Just over 68 percent die, though.

Like most of the others, the woman chose a Saturday to try to kill herself. Sunday and Monday are the next-most-popular days, the report says.

However, there are few common traits among those who try to commit suicide by Metro. They range in age, race and socioeconomic status, according to the report. It did not give data on gender.

The stations are targeted equally, apparently, as more than half the 86 stations have been the site of a suicide attempt.

One common trait among the incidents: More than 90 percent of the riders had a history of depression.

Suicide-by-train is a common problem that transit agencies around the world face. No agency has solved the problem, but some, such as Boston's MBTA, San Francisco's BART, NJ Transit and Toronto's agency, have tried various efforts including posters telling riders where to get help.

Metro has pledged to find ways of addressing the issue since September 2009 after a spike in the number of attempts. But the plans have been waylaid and delayed multiple times, despite $250,000 in funding.

In January, Metro said it planned to train all rail operators and station managers on ways to handle suicidal riders by the end of 2012, adding such training to the recertification process for all station managers and operators. Now, the latest report says it plans to have 896 train operators and station managers trained by January 2013, which is not quite all of the 960 Metro previously said would get trained by the end of December.

Stessel also said in January that the agency plans to add public education signs showing a crisis hot line number by April.

But the latest report, slated to be presented to Metro's board members on Thursday, contains no timeline for when that should occur. Metro staff declined to comment.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment
Author:

Kytja Weir

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner