The TTC Gets Brutally Honest about Mental Health
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The TTC Gets Brutally Honest about Mental Health

Brad Ross addresses those ominous "personal injury at track level" messages.

Photo by Neesa R. from the Torontoist Flickr pool.

Photo by Neesa R. from the Torontoist Flickr pool.

If you’re a regular TTC commuter, you’ve probably heard the messages plenty of times before. They’re purposefully vague, and riders seldom hear what happens after the TTC announces there has been a “personal injury at track level.”

But yesterday, when Line 1 was shut down between Bloor and Union stations, executive director of corporate communications Brad Ross took to Twitter to give commuters the grim but honest truth behind the messages.

When a rider tweeted at Ross for more information about customers who are injured at track level, he responded that the incidences involve those who have died by suicide.

The open dialogue about suicides at subway stations is part of the TTC’s larger strategy to combat mental health issues in the city. For the past decade, the commission has gotten serious about mental health, launching several campaigns to raise awareness about the emotional distress many riders face on a daily basis.

In 2011, the TTC launched Crisis Link, a payphone program that allows commuters in distress to talk directly with a trained counsellor  from designated waiting areas in subway stations. Metrolinx also launched a helpline in 2015 to assist customers with mental health struggles.

Last year, the TTC saw a decrease in suicides and suicide attempts from subway platforms—perhaps thanks to these mental health initiatives.

But some mental health advocates say that’s not enough, and many continue to call for barriers along subway platforms to prevent any suicides. In fact, in 2014, Toronto Public Health endorsed the installation of barriers in TTC stations. But the price of such infrastructure is too high for a transit agency that struggles to keep up with maintenance costs. “It would be something we would absolutely do in a perfect world,” Ross told Torontoist in 2014.

For now, riders appear grateful for the acknowledgement that such issues still exist at subway stations across the city.

Honest and open conversations, especially about the hard stuff, will always trump silence.