Counselors available via text in Caltrain-nonprofit partnership to prevent suicides

Caltrain announced a new partnership on Wednesday with a nonprofit in hopes of preventing suicides on the train tracks. As part of the agreement, counselors will be available 24/7 by text message. 

Sarah Longyear committed suicide at a Palo Alto train crossing by stepping in front of a Caltrain. Her mother says the 19-year-old battled insomnia and anxiety while pushing herself to make the deans's list in college, walk on to the basketball team and join a sorority. 

"She tried to live life, but inside she was just being tormented by depression," said Sally Longyear, Sarah's mother. 

Her death is the most recent in a community that has seen at least 10 teen suicides since 2009. Many of those have also occurred on Caltrain's tracks.

The new Caltrain partnership is with the Crisis Text Line, a nonprofit that offers 24/7 counseling through text.

"The more ways we have to reach out to somebody, the better and it's just simply a fact of how many people can we reach and reach them with the right tools," said Mark Simon, chief of staff for Caltrain. 

The premise is simple; teens in need are more likely to text than call for help. 

"It's accessible. Their mom doesn't hear them through the wall. They can do it from school. We actually see a spike every day during lunch time because kids are texting us from school," said Libby Craig with Crisis Text Line. 

New pamphlets and signage will be unveiled soon. Community leaders have also been working to address the suicide problem. the city has placed guards at the train crossings and they're testing new camera technologies along the tracks. 

"There is help and there is hope. People need to know that," said Craig. 

Help comes too late for Sarah Longyear, but her mother believes the Crisis Text Line is a valuable tool that might help the next person. "That's how they communicate. That's how we need to give them help," she said. 

Travelers can expect to see information about Crisis Text Line on trains and at stations starting Monday, but the service is already available to those in need.