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MBTA, Samaritans launch anti-suicide campaign

The MBTA says that some of the ads will look like this.MBTA

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is teaming up with suicide prevention group Samaritans Inc. of Boston to offer help to people on subway platforms who are feeling depressed or alone.

Beginning Friday, the T will launch the “You Are Not Alone” program. Between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays, and 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekends, a message of hope will scroll across the MBTA’s LED notification boards every two hours.

The message will read, “Lonely? Desperate? We can help 24/7,” and include a number to reach the Samaritans’ phone and text help line. The same message will be read over the transit agency’s public announcement system periodically.


“How better to get our number out in front of people who are coming in and out of Boston?” said Steve Mongeau, executive director of the Samaritans of Boston, in a telephone interview. “We are thrilled that they have decided to help us share our help line and support number with the vast number of people using public transit.”

The Samaritans and the T’s commuter rail operator began a partnership years ago, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said. The MBTA last year approached Samaritans about expanding their efforts by including the messages on the subway system, he said.

There have been 28 deaths that were ruled suicides — 16 on commuter rail tracks and 12 on MBTA subway tracks — in the past three years, according to data provided by the public transit agency.

“The primary goal of the ‘You are Not Alone’ campaign is to raise awareness of the Samaritans’ mission,” Pesaturo said in an e-mail.

Information on how to contact the Samaritans’ help line, 1-877-870-4673, will also appear on 80 digital screens in seven of the largest subway stations, in Boston and Cambridge, according to a statement from MBTA officials.


Riders can also expect to see 400 placards posted throughout buses and subway trains, and inside commuter rail coaches and at commuter rail station platforms, the T said.

In October, the Samaritans launched a texting capability so that people seeking help can reach out to volunteers without having to speak on the phone. More than 500 texts have come in from people in despair since the Samaritans first offered the service. The T campaign will also alert commuters that the option exists.

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.