The Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) has issued a safety advisory encouraging transportation agencies to implement, update, or expand suicide prevention signage and messaging campaigns that apply best practices to reduce suicide attempts.
Suicide is the leading cause of deaths on public transportation in the United States, with most events occurring on heavy rail infrastructure. According to the National Transit Database, suicide has consistently accounted for more than 40% of all transit fatalities for him over the past decade.
In addition to the tragic loss of life, these events can also traumatize witnesses and cause service interruptions.
According to the FTA, research shows that suicide prevention signs, including hotline and crisis center information, are effective in encouraging mental health interventions.
U.S. and international transit agencies have found that suicide prevention signs are increasing the number of calls to suicide hotlines. Although transportation-specific studies are limited, multidisciplinary suicide prevention studies have demonstrated a correlation between suicide prevention signs and annual reductions in suicide attempts.
The FTA encourages transit agencies to install or update digital or physical signage to incorporate the following elements:
- View phone numbers for national suicide and crisis lifelines (988) and phone numbers for local crisis centers or local public transportation helplines.
- If possible, direct people to nearby payphones.
- Present information in all languages frequently spoken within the jurisdiction.
- Consider language, word choice, and other demographic risk factors such as age and gender within your jurisdiction for signage and messaging campaigns.
In addition, the FTA recommends transportation.
- Place suicide prevention signs in highly visible locations where suicide risk is highest.
- Convey awareness information about suicide prevention and general mental health in popular media such as bus advertising spaces, station booths, bus shelters, metro cards, and vending machine screen savers.
- Partner with suicide prevention organizations, including local mental health organizations, to coordinate mental health and suicide prevention messages and resources.
- Evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of various signage approaches and use available data or information to guide transit agency actions on suicide prevention as part of transit safety risk management and safety assurance processes.