UK

Samaritans Anti-Suicide Training Sees Railway Staff Intervene Hundreds Of Times To Help People At Risk

23/02/2016 01:54 GMT | Updated 23/02/2016 07:59 GMT

More than 450 potential suicide attempts on the railways were prevented in less than a year thanks to special training for staff to identify people at risk.

Since April 1 last year, Network Rail staff, train operators and British Transport Police have intervened 458 times - more than once a day - to help vulnerable people showing signs of suicidal behaviour.

Network Rail said it estimated more than 1,000 potential suicide attempts were prevented in the three years up to July 2015, thanks to the Managing Suicidal Contacts training provided in partnership with charity The Samaritans.

The latest figure suggests a significant increase in the number of interventions in 2014/15.

samaritans railway

Network Rail says the Samaritans-provided training was the reason its staff were intervening to help people at risk more

A Network Rail spokeswoman told The Huffington Post UK that it "attributes the increase in interventions to the training".

"It’s why we’ve invested so heavily in it," she said. "It’s clear that as more staff are trained and are aware of the programme, more interventions are being recorded."

More than 11,500 rail staff completed the training, which teaches "confidence and listening skills" to approach people in distress and lead them to a place of safety.

Andrew Wellbeloved, a mobile operations manager at Network Rail, said the training equipped him to approach a man who was "confused and disorientated" and "in a state of despair" at a station in the north west.

He was sitting on a platform bench, rocking back and forth with one foot in front of the other.

When Wellbeloved approached him, he said he "wanted to die". Wellbeloved moved him from the platform to his van, where he called the emergency services and asked them not to use their sirens for fear of further alarming the man. They took the man to hospital.

"I was nervous as I hadn’t been involved in a situation like that before, but the memory of my training gave me the confidence to speak to him,” Wellbeloved said.

“The training helped me remain calm and gave me confidence, as I felt as though I knew what I had to do.”

neena naylor network rail

Neena Naylor

Train dispatcher Neena Naylor intervened to help a woman standing on a platform at Birmingham New Street who had a "glazed" look in her eyes, asking her if there was anything she could help her with.

"It was at that point she turned and looked at me and said 'I don't know'," Naylor says. "That's when she became hysterical. I remember saying 'keep focused on me, there's no one else here, no one else matters, it's just me and you'.

"It was just enough to keep her safe and enough for British Transport Police to arrive."

Suicides on the railways account for around 5% of suicides nationally, Network Rail says. In 2014/15, 314 people killed themselves on railways - the vast majority of railways deaths - a 4% increase on the previous year and a large increase on the 220 suicides in 2002/03.

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Ian Stevens, suicide prevention programme manager for Network Rail said: "Any death on the railway is a tragedy but the impact is felt not only by those who knew the person but by the train driver and station staff and those who are involved in the aftermath.

"We want to do everything we can to stop this from happening, and if it does, to help our people deal with it.

“By training thousands of railway staff to identify and help vulnerable people, Samaritans have helped us to save lives, reduce trauma to our people and keep the railway running for the millions that depend on it.

"A continued collaborative approach across the industry and everyone working in mental health is needed to tackle this societal problem and to help us keep Britain moving by rail."

Network Rail and The Samaritans are rolling out a new series of posters to stations across England, Scotland and Wales, as part of the charity 'We Listen' campaign that promotes its listening service by phone to help people.

The posters highlight individual words of sentences to show the hidden messages within people's insistence that they are not well.

samaritans poster

One of the posters from the Samaritans' 'We Listen' campaign

Stevens said: "Millions of people travel by rail and visit stations every day, so we’re well placed and proud to support Samaritans’ ‘We Listen’ campaign and help spread the message that you don’t have to go it alone with your troubles when life is tough."

Useful websites and helplines:

  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: help@getconnected.org.uk
  • HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41