Life-saving rail interventions up 84% in one year on the south west railway: Michael Budd, Mobile Operations Manager at Network Rail's Wessex Route (2)

Friday 30 Jun 2017

Life-saving rail interventions up 84% in one year on the south west railway

Route:
Wessex

Suicide prevention measures put in place as part of the partnership between Samaritans, Network Rail, British Transport Police (BTP) and the wider rail industry are continuing to reduce deaths on the railway across the south west railway.

Since April last year, 206* potentially life-saving interventions have been carried out across the south west rail network** by rail staff, British Transport Police, local police and members of the public – an increase of 84 per cent on the previous year.

Rail companies, BTP and Samaritans are continuing to work in partnership to encourage more people to open up and talk about mental health issues and suicidal feelings.

Samaritans deliver two training courses as part of the partnership – a course for railway staff and BTP officers teaching them how to identify and approach potentially suicidal people, and trauma support training aimed at those who may be affected by suicide on the railway.

Michael Budd, a mobile operations manager at Network Rail, attended the Managing Suicidal Contacts course run by Samaritans in January 2012.  It was this training that Michael felt gave a better understanding of how mental illness can bring someone to the point of considering suicide, which helped him during an intervention in spring this year. Michael said:

“I was first made aware of a man on the tracks when I received a call from control.  Once I had confirmed everything was safe, I approached him and introduced myself.

“I got him to tell me his name; he looked very dishevelled and agitated and was talking to himself.  He said he was hearing voices that were telling him to kill himself and he seemed very distressed.

“We chatted and I reassured him I was there to help.  I put my arm on his shoulder and guided him to a safe place on the platform where the police were waiting with an ambulance.  Before he left in the ambulance, he thanked me for my help.

“The Managing Suicidal Contacts course helped me to stay calm and listen, which also helped me calm the man down.  I made sure not to say things like “I know how you feel” or “it will be alright”.  Just letting him talk was the right thing to do, and this was something I took away from my Samaritans course a few years ago.”

As the new figures are released, the partnership is marking the 15,000th member of rail staff trained in suicide prevention.

Ian Stevens, who manages the suicide prevention programme on behalf of the rail industry, said: 

“It’s encouraging to see the number of suicides on the railway fall for the second year in a row, and hopefully this trend continues in line with our ongoing suicide prevention work. It’s great to be able to say that around one in six rail staff are now trained in suicide prevention, and that their commitment to preventing suicides on the railway is translating into actual lives saved on the ground. Put simply, we are now more likely to intervene and prevent people being injured or killed through suicide attempts on the railway.

“As the operators of the rail network in Britain, we have a responsibility to keep passengers, staff and members of the public safe. Alongside physical measures such as new barriers, fencing and lighting at stations, we will continue our work with Samaritans to prevent suicides and break down the stigma associated with mental health issues.”

Mark Smith, National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health lead for British Transport Police added:

“As the national police service for the railways, we are committed to reducing suicide and to our partnership with the rail industry and Samaritans. We are very pleased to see the reduction in suicides and suspected suicides and the increase in life saving interventions for the second year in succession.

“One of our contributions is through the work of our suicide prevention and mental health teams, which have NHS Psychiatric nurses working alongside police officers and staff. These teams work with statutory and third sector partners to help those people that come to the railway in mental health crisis or suicidal circumstances, access effective care pathways and get on the road to recovery. In the last year, these joint health and policing teams and our Community Safety Unit in Scotland, dealt with nearly 2,000 cases which includes 86 people who survived a suicide attempt on the railway with serious injuries.”

Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland said:

“The reduction in suicides on the railway shows that the partnership between Samaritans, Network Rail, BTP and the wider rail industry is making a real difference. But suicide is everybody’s business and we want to see the same dramatic reduction in suicide figures in general.  We look forward to taking this learning to a wider audience and having an even greater impact on suicide numbers in the coming years.”

Additional ways that the rail industry is preventing rail suicides include:

  • Fencing has been installed across the network at locations where the risk of suicide is known to be high
  • Improved platform markings, which exist for passenger safety, but for some at risk of suicide they also act as a psychological barrier
  • Engaging and working with local authorities to help prevent rail suicides

Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 and those from deprived communities are particularly vulnerable.

ENDS

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Network Rail press office - Owen Johns
Media relations manager (Wessex route)
07710 959476
Owen.Johns@networkrail.co.uk

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