New signs at UCF parking garage help remind students in crisis there is help

Police say suicide prevention signs have helped save lives

ORLANDO, Fla. – When University of Central Florida police get a call from a suicidal student, it’s often from the same place: the top of a UCF parking garage.

Seeking a solution from his advisory council, UCF Police Chief Carl Metzger played a recent video clip from an officer’s body camera responding to a suicidal call at the parking garage. The council is largely made up of students.

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The video shows UCF officers gently speaking with the student and lifting her off of the ledge.

One advisory council student was so moved by the video that the student suggested a way to remind those in crisis there is help available at all hours, putting the reminder where it’s needed most.

So police installed five bright-yellow signs along the perimeter of the top floor of the parking garage, several next to the blue light call boxes that will call a 911 dispatcher with the push of a button.

The signs highlight four phone numbers: The on-campus Counseling and Psychological Services Center, which is open 24/7, 911, the Suicide Prevention Hotline, and even a crisis hotline to send a text message.

UCF Police Sgt. Frank Imparato said the police department got a call this summer forwarded from the Suicide Prevention Hotline. It was from a student in crisis at the top of the garage.

“We didn’t know which garage it was but through some resources and talking to the student via the hotline, our dispatcher did a great job and tracked them to this garage right here and got that student help,” Imparato said. “Absolutely I believe it did save that student’s life.”

The mother of Michael Morales, with News 6 reporter Erik von Ancken. (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

Imparato said suicide attempts average once every few weeks but increase at the beginning and end of the semester.

“Specifically when the students first come to UCF and they got home sick, they realize this is a different college experience that they’re used to,” Imparato said. “Also during their finals, that can be very stressful first semester in college. Students need help. And we don’t want anyone to suffer in silence. It’s a great resource to make people understand that they’re not alone. And if they need help from the UCF Police Department, we’re here to help you.”

UCF police also regularly drive through the garage and said they’ve encountered students in crisis that way.

And every single time, officers have gotten results, relying on their Crisis Intervention Training. They have never lost a student.

“One-hundred percent of the lives have been saved,” Imparato said. “Absolutely it’s getting results and I’m proud of that.”

Besides the 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training, all UCF police officers undergo crisis refresher courses twice per year where they run through real-life scenarios that other police departments across the country have faced.

“When law enforcement responds to the scene, we may come in with lights and sirens because we have to get here quick, but we’re going to talk to you and treat you with the respect that you need,” Imparato said. “We’re going to try and sit down and talk to you and restore you to pre-crisis state.”

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.