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Caltrain, Crisis Text Line announce partnership to prevent suicides

Parent of young Palo Alto woman who died by suicide urges others to use, share resource

Starting next week, the now-ubiquitous "There is Help" signs with suicide hotline numbers posted at local Caltrain stations and along the railroad tracks will be joined by a new resource for those in crisis: Crisis Text Line, a free, confidential, 24/7 support service accessible by simply texting the number 741741.

Caltrain and Crisis Text Line announced a new partnership Wednesday at a press conference held outside Palo Alto City Hall. New posters and fliers advertising the text line will be posted at all Caltrain stations and on board trains starting next Monday, Dec. 5. They are in addition to the 250 "There is Help" signs that were installed several years ago.

"At Caltrain, every death on our rail system sends a ripple of pain through our organization, and that's why we have a longstanding commitment to try and work collaboratively throughout our community to help address the difficult and challenging problem of death by suicide (and) mental health issues in this community," said Caltrain Chief of Staff Mark Simon. "It is a problem that requires a community solution."

Crisis Text Line, a nonprofit that launched in 2013, connects people in crisis with trained volunteers who seek to listen, empathize and validate, then help the texter identify, on their own, coping skills. They also connect texters with local resources and referrals, if appropriate.

If a texter is deemed to be at imminent risk for suicide — the person has a plan, method and immediate access to means — the counselor flags the conversation to a supervisor, who has more extensive mental-health training and can call the local authorities to send help in person.

Libby Craig, director of Crisis Text Line's Bay Area efforts and a Gunn High School graduate, described the program as "strangers helping strangers in their darkest moments."

Crisis Text Line, a service that is anonymous, also collects, aggregates and publicizes data around types of crisis, age range of texters and other trends. In the Bay Area, 75 percent of texters are under the age of 25 years old, Craig said.

Craig added that "human-to-human interaction will never be replaced by technology, but we believe in utilizing it to help us be more efficient and more effective."

Sally Longyear, whose daughter, a Gunn graduate, died by suicide at Caltrain in April, urged others to use and proliferate the text-based resource. She described texting with friends as a critical source of support and encouragement for her daughter as she struggled with anxiety, depression, insomnia and physical illness.

It would have been helpful for not only her daughter to have known about Crisis Text Line as a resource, but also Longyear herself and her daughter's friends, who were unsure how to respond and help, she said.

"I urge all of you who know someone who is hurting inside not to hesitate to ask for help," Longyear told a small crowd gathered outside City Hall for the press conference. "It's the right thing to do. If you have a friend in need who confides in you, do not be afraid to break that confidence. That's the right thing to do."

Simon said that "intervention at the front end can often be a life-changing event for everybody involved," noting that transit police trained in crisis intervention save dozens of people per year along the Caltrain corridor.

Crisis Text Line is also now partnering with Palo Alto youth well-being collaborative Project Safety Net. The group's executive director, Mary Gloner, said the partnership adds to the fabric of a growing "safety net" for youth in Palo Alto and beyond.

"As one young person shared with me, 'Crisis Text Line places an emphasis on providing help to everybody, anytime and anywhere,'" Gloner said. "The ability for people to seek help whenever they need it is extremely important. It spreads the message that help is always available and that someone is willing to listen."

Other new local partnerships with Crisis Text Line include Children's Health Council in Palo Alto; nonprofit Adolescent Counseling Services, which provides on-campus counseling at Palo Alto Unified School District's middle and high schools; and SafeSpace, a new youth mental health clinic opening in Menlo Park.

People can reach trained Crisis Text Line counselors by texting "BAY" to 741741.

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Any person who is feeling depressed, troubled or suicidal can also call 1-800-784-2433 to speak with a crisis counselor. People in Santa Clara County can call 1-855-278-4204. Spanish speakers can call 1-888-628-9454.

Links below provide more resources where one can receive help:

Resources: How to help those in crisis

Guest opinion: How to help those in crisis

Q&A about mental health: Local experts offer their advice, guidance

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