June 16, 2011

The Toronto Transit Commission, in partnership with Distress Centres of Toronto and Bell Canada, today announced a new initiative to help prevent subway suicides and offer hope to those at-risk of suicide on Toronto’s subway system.

Called “Crisis Link,” the program includes posters on every subway platform asking, “Thinking of Suicide? There is help. Let’s talk.” The posters encourage those contemplating suicide to use the payphone at the Designated Waiting Area located on every subway platform, and the new direct dial button that now connects callers with a trained counsellor at the Distress Centres of Toronto. The phone call is free and confidential.

Counsellors will talk with the caller and assess the risk that the individual is considering suicide. Distress Centres staff work as a team and will contact the TTC’s Transit Control Centre to implement the appropriate measures to ensure the individual remains safe.

In 2010, TTC staff reported to the Commission on the programs it has in place to prevent subway suicides and to assist TTC employees who suffer post-traumatic effects when someone takes their life on the subway system. The “Crisis Link” program is one more step the TTC is taking to help those most at-risk of suicide on the subway.

“I am very pleased that the TTC, Distress Centres of Toronto and Bell were able to come together on this very important program,” said TTC Chair Karen Stintz. “Mental health is often a difficult subject for many to broach. The reality, however, is society cannot and should not ignore this critical issue. If ‘Crisis Link’ saves just one life, it has been worth it. I would like to thank the Distress Centres of Toronto and Bell for their partnership and leadership on this issue.”

“Distress Centres is honoured to partner with the TTC and Bell in pioneering the Crisis Link project,” said Karen Letofsky, Executive Director of the Distress Centres of Toronto. “As an agency that has served for almost 45 years  as one of the community’s points of first access for the vulnerable and at-risk, we welcome this opportunity to ‘meet those in need where they are at’ and create greater community awareness about suicide.”

“Bell is glad to support the TTC and Distress Centres of Toronto in making this important new service available,” said Mary Deacon, Chair of the Bell Mental Health Initiative. “Improving access to care is a pillar of Bell’s mental health program, and connecting those most at risk with the professional support they need at a time of crisis is one of the many ways we can do so.”  

Backgrounder

June 16, 2011

Crisis Link

  • 69 subway stations, 200 posters, 141 payphones
  • The entire subway system will have posters and new payphones installed by the end of July
  • Distress Centres is the oldest crisis helpline in Canada, operating since 1967 and receives 120,000 calls each year, with more than 450 screened, trained and supervised volunteers
  • A direct link between Distress Centres of Toronto and the TTC’s Transit Control Centre will invoke emergency procedures when required, including holding trains before they enter stations, slowing subway trains as they enter stations, and dispatching emergency personnel
  • 18 subway suicide incidents occurred in 2009; 26 subway suicides incidents in 2010; 7 to-date in 2011
  • Crisis Link annual budget - $107,000
  • Program and poster endorsed by suicide experts, including St. Michael’s Hospital Chair of Suicide Studies and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  • The Bell Mental Health Initiative is a multi-year charitable program that promotes mental health across Canada via the Bell Let's Talk anti-stigma campaign and support for community care, research and workplace best practices. To learn more, please visit bell.ca/letstalk.

Poster that will be seen on all subway station platforms as part of the TTC's Crisis Link program: Thinking of suicide? There is help. Lets talk. Use the public telephone located near the Designated Waiting Area on this Subway Platform. Just press the blue auto-dial button for a direct line to the Crisis Link. It's a free call and it's confidential. Or call Distress Centres anytime at 416-408-HELP(4357)

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