Suicides Spike On NJ Transit Tracks
New Jersey Transit is teaming up with the state Department of Human Services in reaction to a spike in the number of suicides this year on the system's rails.
With 27 people struck and killed by its trains in 2013, the two agencies have worked to make people aware of New Jersey Hopeline and posting signs at all 164 stations with their phone number: 1-855-654-6735 according to spokesman John Durso.
New Jersey Transittells The Record that 21 of 27 incidents were confirmed or possible suicides. Between 2008 and last year, that number hovered between 12 and 16. NJ Transit has focused on preventing accidental track deaths, and those numbers fell from 2009 to last year.
The recent upswing may reflect a national increase in the overall number of suicides. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the suicide rate for people between 35 and 64 has risen more than 28 percent from 1999 to 2010.
NJ Hopeline began operation this year and is New Jersey's first suicide hotline. It is operated by Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care and staffs New Jersey-based counselors. “It’s important for residents who are feeling alone, desperate or in distress to have a safe outlet,” Jennifer Velez, commissioner of the state Department of Human Services told the Record. “Using trained counselors who are based in New Jersey helps callers to relate easier and can help lead to fewer suicides.”
NJ Transit also released a video earlier this year and a PSA campaign stressing the fact that trains can't stop quickly and that being struck by a train is devastating to the victim, NJ Transit police and engineers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.