In 2010 Network rail and Samaritans established a UK wide partnership aimed at reducing rail deaths by 12% over a five year period and this partnership has recently been renewed for a further five years.
Four percent of all suicides in the UK occur on the railways and 200 of the 2,500 UK rail stations are designated as suicide hotspots. Of the total number of deaths on Network Rail in 2013, two hundred and thirty three were coroner confirmed suicides with 10% occurring at level crossings. These deaths have a high emotional cost to all concerned and 3-4% of drivers involved never return to work. Furthermore the resultant cancellations have a high financial cost; Network Rail paid £85million in compensation over a five year period for 300,000 cancellation minutes due to incidents.
Redbridge Samaritans is an active and successful participant in this valuable outreach partnership; one Thursday per month two volunteers attend Ilford Station for two hours during the peak morning and evening rush hours to raise awareness of Samaritans amongst commuters and Network Rail staff. Twelve volunteers are currently involved and it is anticipated that this will increase over the next year as further training in Emotional Support Outside Branch (ESOB) is provided to prepare volunteers wishing to participate.
Our presence is much appreciated by Network Rail line management for the help we provide to both management and staff and we have been told that we are doing a good job with a 15% reduction in our area against a rising trend elsewhere.
In addition to Phase 1 suicide prevention work, Samaritans is responsible for the delivery of:
· Suicide prevention training - Samaritans trainers at GO deliver a one-day training course entitled Managing Suicidal Contacts to the rail industry to give attendees the confidence and skills to recognise, support and refer a vulnerable person (to Samaritans and/or BTP).
· Trauma support training - Samaritans trainers also deliver a one-day training course to managers of people within the rail industry, that gives them the skills to recognise and support team members who may be suffering from trauma after a traumatic rail incident.
· A national poster campaign - In 2012 the 'We're in your corner' campaign was launched targeting those most at risk of rail suicide. Thousands of posters are now present at stations advertising Samaritans services and reaching out to men to encourage them to talk about their problems. A new campaign is due for development in 2015 as part of the new contract.
· Branch support to local stations - Redbridge Samaritans collaborates with Havering Samaritans to provide post-incident support, usually the day after a death at a station occurs. We may be called anywhere in the region to provide support to staff and passengers who have been affected by the incident. Volunteers, usually a male and female and always in pairs have attended about a dozen times since the service started four years ago and we offer follow up support from the branch when requested.
· 24 hour call-out service - Should a station need to request post-incident support, the project team at Samaritans General Office operate a 24 hour, 7 day a week call-out service. If support is requested ESOB volunteers will be contacted by text, or project co-ordinators will be emailed if there is more time.
· Media monitoring - Due to the service nature of the rail industry, the majority of rail suicides are reported online and/or in print. Often this is only to report on delays caused, however the General Office Press Team work both proactively and reactively to ensure rail suicides are reported responsibly by the press.