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 and the TTC).
Bell has generously provided the payphones on each subway platform that seamlessly connects someone in distress and contemplating suicide with a Distress Centre counselor. Crisis Link phone calls are free.
When a TTC customer calls Crisis Link from a payphone found near the Designated Waiting Area on every subway platform in the system, a counselor with the Distress Centres knows where on the TTC the call is coming from. The counselor then determines whether the caller is in 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 help for the caller is then dispatched.
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.