Blood on the Tracks

Budget issues hold up Metro suicide prevention plans

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Kate Caskin

    A Maryland man's suicide at the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro Station was at least the 15th suicide related to the Metro system in the past year and a half – a rate five times as high as in the past.

    But as the Washington Examiner reported this morning, Metro’s suicide prevention plan “remains months late and far short of earlier promises.” Metro promised to take a closer look at the spate of suicides almost a year ago. Since that time, at least six suicides have taken place in the system.

    Metro said last September that it would partner with regional suicide prevention organizations, then changed direction two months later, partnering with the American Association of Suicidology, the local Department of Mental Health and Toronto’s subway agency, the Examiner reported. A public education program was supposed to have started five months ago.

    As is the case with everything involving Metro, it all comes down to money. While $100,000 was set aside for suicide prevention in the budget that kicks in today, there was no funding available before that, WMATA spokeswoman Angela Gates said. Metro now plans to send an employee to Toronto to learn about that city’s suicide prevent efforts.

    Metro also plans to teach suicide intervention techniques to about 30 employees, who will then train their colleagues. But Gates warns that more money will be needed for this next level of training.

    In the meantime, perhaps Metro patrons could do a little more to help each other out. That certainly didn’t happen during a recent morning rush hour at Foggy Bottom, when a man stuck on the tracks was ignored by most of the people waiting on the crowded platform. According to a Blue Line rider who wrote in to Unsuck D.C. Metro, a “disoriented” man was down on the tracks, trying to scramble back up onto the platform. Just one woman was trying to pull him up. The writer said several people were on their cell phones, and while they may have been calling for help, none of them was actually assisting in pulling the guy up.

    “What amazed me was the number of perfectly healthy men and women who walked right by,” the correspondent marveled. “It was 9:30 a.m., and the platform was full of people. Most just looked at this poor man struggling to get back up on the platform and kept on walking.”