Many of us avoid talking about suicide; but, sadly, it’s something many of us will be affected by in our lifetime. Rail industry staff encounter it more than most.

In 2010, Samaritans and Network Rail began a rail suicide prevention programme on behalf of the industry in 2010 that set out to get the industry talking about suicide: it has succeeded. In the past three years, there have more than 2,000 interventions by railway staff and British Transport Police (BTP) officers which have prevented someone from taking their own life on the railway.

The programme’s Managing Suicidal Contacts training course helps give staff the skills and confidence to identify vulnerable people and act. To date, more than 11,500 railway staff have completed the course. The charity also runs trauma support courses for train drivers and other staff who have been affected by a suicide. More than 1,500 people have attended one of these courses to date.

Samaritan’s latest campaign, ‘We Listen’, aimed to reinforce the message that Samaritan’s volunteers are on hand not just to hear problems, but to really listen and try to help.

Lifesaver Award

‘People may be in crisis because of something that has happened in their lives. It is often a silent and excruciating pain,’ said Samaritans’ programme manager Ola Rzepczynska, who was speaking to RailStaff for an article which was published earlier this year about the partnership’s work.

‘One of the most valuable things about the Network Rail and Samaritans partnership is making people aware. It gets the rail industry talking about suicide, and the more aware people are and the more they can understand the complex issues behind it, the better equipped they will be to help or seek support for themselves.’

Samaritans once again sponsored the RailStaff Awards Lifesaver Award, which each year recognises people who have saved a life or made a lifesaving intervention on the railway. In the past few years, numerous stories have been told about staff who have stepped in to protect passengers or prevent individuals from taking their own life on the railway.

Courage

Ola added: “Samaritans are delighted to be sponsoring the Lifesaver Award for the fifth year in a row. We have been working with the rail industry since 2010 on the suicide prevention programme and have delivered our suicide prevention courses to over 11,000 staff, giving them the tools to be able to help vulnerable and potentially suicidal people on the network.

“During this time there have been many examples of potentially life-saving interventions by rail industry personnel and British Transport Police officers all over England, Scotland and Wales. Approximately 1,000 interventions have been carried out since April last year.

“All of the individuals involved have proved that having the courage and taking the time to talk and listen to someone in need can make a real difference to a person’s life.

“It is fantastic that we are able to recognise the huge positive difference that rail industry staff have been making on the network at the RailStaff awards this year by sponsoring the award once again.”