TORONTO - The Toronto Transit Commission is joining a crisis hotline agency and Bell Canada to launch a subway suicide prevention program.

The commission says the program -- called Crisis Link -- will include posters on subway platforms urging anyone contemplating suicide to use a designated pay phone to call a distress centre counsellor.

A new direct dial button will make the calls, which are free and confidential.

If a counsellor feels there is a risk of suicide, the TTC will be contacted.

The posters and new pay phones will be installed in all subway stations by the end of July. The cost of the program is $107,000 a year.

There have been seven suicides so far this year on the subway system. There were 26 last year.

"Mental health is often a difficult subject for many to broach," TTC chairwoman Karen Stintz said in a release.

"The reality, however, is society cannot and should not ignore this critical issue."

The crisis hotline is run by Distress Centres of Toronto. The agency says it has more than 450 trained volunteers who handle about 120,000 calls each year.

(CP24 is a division of Bell Media)