CCOn Tuesday, employees at Capitol City Development Corp.’s six Downtown parking garages received training on how to identify and approach people considering suicide by jumping from the garages’ upper stories.
The training is one of several steps CCDC, the city’s urban-renewal agency, is taking or considering to deter suicide attempts at the garages it owns, said Max Clark, parking and facilities director.
Clark also plans to post 50 signs on upper levels reading: “Feeling hopeless, lonely, suicidal? There is hope. There is help,” followed by the number for the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, (208) 398-HELP.
The changes were suggested in a report by the Suicide Prevention Program, a new, four-person office within Idaho Department of Health and Welfare led by manager Kim Kane.
“Our office could not be more pleased with the response from CCDC and their level of concern to safety,” Kane said.
The state’s response was prompted in part by an Oct. 16 Idaho Statesman story about a night last April when two strangers contemplated jumping from the City Centre Garage at the corner of Front and 9th streets.
Talon Owens, then a 15-year-old junior at Borah High School, was on the eighth story, planning to jump, when he saw a woman jump from the third story of the same building. That scared Talon and saved him from making a similar attempt.
The woman survived the fall. Talon has become a suicide prevention advocate, speaking about his experience at several public events.
The day before the story was published, Kane said police responded to another suicidal person at the same garage. That and Talon’s story led her to launch an informal investigation into the garages’ safety.
Her office learned that Boise police had responded to 11 calls for people either attempting or contemplating jumping from Downtown garages from January 2014 through October 2016. Of those, 10 were at Front and 9th, the tallest of the six and one with features that Kane’s report said could contribute to consideration of the garage as a potential site for suicide attempts.
Kane submitted a 13-page report to CCDC with findings and six recommendations to improve garage safety. Besides training garage staff and posting signs, the agency is looking into recommendations to alter the ledge on the top floor of the 9th and Front garage, which is wide enough to sit or stand on.
It also may alter open-air stairwell railings and horizontal cables along barrier walls to discourage access, Clark said.
CCDC expects design and cost estimates from a consultant soon.
Employees will tell anyone lingering near the edge to move, but the garage will not ban all loitering, despite the state’s recommendation.
“[Staff] are sometimes put in the position where somebody is sitting on the edge and smoking a cigarette, enjoying the nice view,” Clark said. “Maybe they aren’t even contemplating suicide, but we’ve impressed upon staff to ask them to get inside the garage structure.”
BoiseDev.com, a website that reports on Boise development, first reported about CCDC’s plans.
The Legislature created the Suicide Prevention Program last year. Idaho has the ninth highest suicide rate in the nation. Kane’s team is preparing a media campaign to raise awareness about the problem and resources available for those battling depression. TV ads will air in coming months.
The state is also applying for a grant to fund Zero Suicide, a federally funded program shown to reduce suicides by increasing training and tools available to mental health professionals.
Kane said she wants Idahoans to learn that life can improve for people struggling with suicidal thoughts or behavior.
“More than 90 percent of people who make an attempt don’t die from suicide,” Kane said. “Recovery is the norm.”
Zach Kyle: 208-377-6464, @ZachKyleNews
IF SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS IN EMOTIONAL CRISIS
Call the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Warning signs to watch for:
▪ Talking about wanting to die.
▪ Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
▪ Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
▪ Talking about being a burden to others.
▪ Increasing use of alcohol or drugs.
▪ Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly.
▪ Sleeping too little or too much.
▪ Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
▪ Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
▪ Extreme mood swings.
OTHER THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP
▪ Do not leave the person alone.
▪ Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
▪ Listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
▪ Be nonjudgmental. Don’t debate. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
▪ Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.
▪ Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
▪ Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
▪ Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.
▪ Get help by calling the hotline or visiting Suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Source: Suicide Prevention Lifeline