By Celina DeCastro
Within the past five years in Florida, suicide by train has been steadily increasing, according to the Federal Railroad Administration records.
Since 2011 there have been over 220 train related deaths within Florida. Over 80 of those deaths have been linked to suicide.
In 2016 there were 11 reported suicide related deaths by train in the state. The number represents a decrease from the 19 suicides by train which were recorded during 2015. The railroad officials, however, report that death by train has been on a rise for the past four years.
On March 26, a male pedestrian was struck and killed by a Tri-Rail train in Oakland Park in what appeared to be another suicide. Five days earlier, a Deltona woman, Jeanmarie Baker, 61, was killed when she laid on the railroad tracks in Flagler County.
In February there were two other suspected suicide by train in Volusia County, Florida.
Death by train is not recent, in fact death by train has been around since the introduction of the railroads in America.
Thanks to Henry Flagler who built a settlement in St. Augustine, Florida in 1883, Florida received its first railway. While Flagler was building his hotel, now known as Flagler College, he bought and built the Florida East Coast Railway and by 1912 the tracks reached down to Key West.
In 1893, US Federal law mandated all trains have air brakes and a coupler to stop them, due to the rise of accidents involving fatalities of brakemen and other railroad workers.
Even with the required brakes system, it’s difficult to stop a train in time to avoid striking a person with a death wish as the locomotive, travelling at high speeds and weighing tons, need time and distance to stop.
There are several factors why people decide to commit suicide by train including mental health and substance abuse issues, social isolation, and sudden events they find devastating.
But suicide by train isn’t the only means that some persons choose to end their life.
A recent report by the Broward Department of Health revealed last year 10 Broward teens aged 14-17 committed suicide, up from two to five per year over the past decade.
In addition, a survey of about 1,500 high and middle school students in 2015 found that 3.5 percent (4.3 percent of girls) were injured attempting suicide, up from 2.2 percent in 2007.
About 14 percent of students (16.5 percent of girls) made plans to commit suicide, highest since the 1990s. More than 30 percent (38 percent of girls) reported feelings of sadness and hopelessness for at least two weeks.
Reasons for the increased anxiety among teens range from family problems caused by the economic downturn, pressure to succeed, concerns over appearance, and bullying.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual students, as well as Hispanic teen girls are at elevated risk for suicidal thoughts, says Charlene Grecsek, Coordinator of the Network for Students with Emotional / Behavioral Disabilities at Broward public schools.