BELLE PLAINE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Belle Plaine is trying to prevent suicides after two people intentionally stepped in front of trains within days of each other.
In the early hours of April 24, police say a man sat on the tracks as a train approached. 10 days later, investigators say a mother put herself and her child in the path of a train. Police say the instances are not connected.
"If you've had two major situations like this it can be very devastating for the community so if we can get people to talk about this and be more open about it and engaged I think it can do a lot to help that community heal and prevent suicides," said Jim Judkins of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
Church leaders at the First Congregational United Church of Christ said the deaths left Belle Plaine in shock. That's why the church said it's vital to learn more in order to try to support people who are experiencing depression or are living in crisis because suicide is preventable.
"I think if we don't acknowledge the problems we have in our communities we're not going to be able to have solutions. Admitting we do have people that struggle with mental health, 'I struggle with mental health' will hopefully encourage others to come forward and seek help or say, 'me too,'" said Pastor Kate West.
The meeting is meant to teach people what signs to look for and how to help loved ones if you see they're struggling. By opening the conversation, the church hopes to do exactly that.
"Those are unfortunately two very public events that happened but think about the events that we don't hear publicly where people are drinking or using drugs and slowly killing themselves. They don't get the attention that the trains did. There's lots of ways we can help support our community members," said West.
The Federal Railroad Administration shows so far this year, there have been 28 railroad suicides in the United States. At this time last year, there were 115 suicides on U.S. railroads.
There is help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day. That number is 1-800-273-8255. There are also resources by heading here.