Crisis Link is the world's first public/private/not-for-profit partnership for a suicide prevention helpline in a subway network (partnered with City of Toronto, The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and Bell. Bell has generously provided the payphones on each subway platform that seamlessly connects someone in distress and contemplating suicide with a Distress Centres counsellor at no cost to the caller.
When a TTC customer calls Crisis Link from a payphone found near the Designated Waiting Area on every subway platform in the system, a volunteer crisis line responder with the Distress Centres knows where on the TTC the call is coming from. The volunteer crisis line responder conducts a risk assessment to determine whether the caller is in imminent danger of harming themselves. If they are, the Distress Centres notifies the TTC’s transit control centre where subway trains are slowed when entering that station and emergency help for the caller is then dispatched.
Bell has generously provided the payphones on each subway platform that seamlessly connects someone in distress and contemplating suicide with a Distress Centre counsellor. Crisis Link phone calls are free.
While it is difficult to make a definitive correlation between the reduction of suicide incidents and the Crisis Link program, in 2010, the year prior to Crisis Link implementation, there were 29 suicide incidents on the TTC. In 2011, the year Crisis Link was introduced, 16 suicide incidents were reported. In 2012, there 19 suicide incidents and to date in 2013, there have been nine suicide incidents on the TTC.
The TTC also trains frontline personnel on issues of mental health and what to look for in someone contemplating suicide on the subway. The tragedy of someone losing their life or being severely and permanently injured extends beyond the individual and his or her family. The train crew, witnesses and other TTC personnel involved in suicide incidents face possible life-altering post-traumatic stress disorder.
As an employer and provider of a public service in Toronto, the TTC takes suicide prevention very seriously. It has worked with, and will continue to work with, health care professionals to help end the stigma associated with seeking help for mental health issues. A case in point: the TTC purposely uses the word “suicide” in all of its published material, including the posters found in the subway system to ensure everyone knows that help is just a phone call away.
become a volunteer responder
If you have ever wanted to contribute to the community in a meaningful way, volunteering at Distress Centres has a wealth of opportunities.
Under the supervision of professional staff, all volunteers are carefully screened and fully trained prior to taking calls or working with callers, program participants or survivors of loss.
Volunteers also receive ongoing professional support and in-service education sessions.
Distress Centres leadership and volunteers have a wealth of knowledge and in-depth personal stories that provide insights which are relevant on a variety of mental health, risk and crisis support, suicide prevention/postvention topics.
Our team offers information, skills training, speakers and consultation on request. We provide information packages and custom workshops.
On-site facilitation is also available to agencies, residents and other groups.