Officials at the Air Rights Garage on York Street plan to hold a meeting to discuss what steps can be taken to prevent suicides at their building after a falling death last Wednesday was deemed a suicide.

A Monday press release from New Haven Police Department said the conclusion of the department’s investigation is that there was no foul play or influence by another person that led to the woman’s death. The victim was an employee at the Yale New Haven Hospital, according to Mark D’Angelo, Media Relations Coordinator at the Yale New Haven Hospital. A similar incident occurred on Oct. 11, when a 22-year-old man fell to his death from an elevated deck of the same parking garage. A New Haven Police Department review of surveillance footage showed the man was alone at the time.

“I feel that 99 percent of our non-employees — people that are visiting the hospital — their minds are elsewhere. Their mind is on a sick friend, or a sick family member or whether they themselves are sick,” Dennis Baker, facility manager of Air Rights Garage said. “I think that the people who come here — 99 percent of everybody who comes here, for the first time at least — is due to an emotional or traumatic experience.”

The Air Rights Garage stands opposite to the Yale New Haven Hospital and is one of the hospital’s five designated parking structures. The Smilow Cancer Hospital Parking is on the fourth floor of the Air Rights Garage, and a bridge connects the parking garage and hospital, by way of 55 Park St. While the garage is owned and managed by the city of New Haven Parking Authority, the Yale New Haven Hospital provides security. Air Rights Garage and the Yale New Haven Hospital have a “symbiotic relationship,” said Baker.

New Haven Parking Authority officials are looking to convene a mini-summit, extending invitations to appropriate stakeholders, including the Yale New Haven Hospital, Yale University, the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the New Haven Police Department, to help merge their thoughts and come up with a suitable plan of action. Precise details of the potential summit have yet to be committed, but New Haven Parking Authority officials are actively working to address the issue, according to Sammy Parry, chief operating officer of New Haven Parking Authority.

“New Haven Parking Authority — we’re trying to make good,” said Baker. “We’re trying to understand what our clientele is, and if there is a need for us to respond to our clientele. Every business responds to its clientele. If our clientele has a need, we need to recognize that need and hopefully respond to it.”

“There has been a trend over the last decade with increasing rates of suicide throughout the country, including in Connecticut, so this is not unique to our area,” said Gerard Sanacora, Yale professor of psychiatry, director of the Yale Depression Research Program and co-director of Yale New Haven Hospital Interventional Psychiatry Service. “There are about 120 some off suicides every day just in the U.S. It is the second cause of death for individuals between the age 15 and 34. So it’s not uncommon at all.”

“In some of these cases – a small percentage, but a real percentage of patients that commit suicide — it is more of an impulsive act. So sometimes just ease of access can really be a problem. That’s why having firearms in the house is associated with a higher suicide rate,” said Sanacora.

“And I think this is a case where there is such easy access to a very elevated height that you could end your life. I think making things just more difficult to gain access to at this point would give that momentary pause,” said Sanacora.

“Anything that can be done to reach out to those thinking about suicide, such posting signs that lead to mental health resources and increasing public awareness about suicide risks and the help that is available, should be considered,” said Frank Fortunati, medical director of Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital and Associate Chief of Psychiatry of Yale New Haven Hospital.

Both Fortunati and Sanacora stressed the importance of seeking help when it is needed.

“Talk to someone. Tell someone. Students and Yale employees have the Health Plan, hospital employees have their Employee Assistance Programs” There’s also the 211 info line for urgent crisis counseling,” said Fortunati.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline can be reached at 1-(800)-273-TALK.

Sammy Westfall |