10,000 rail staff trained to provide emotional first aid

More than ten thousand railway staff have now been trained to spot and help vulnerable people at risk of suicide on Britain’s rail network, thanks to Samaritans.

Action by staff from Network Rail, the train operating companies, British Transport Police and the wider railway industry has potentially saved more than 1,000 lives in the last three years. It has now evolved into a cross-industry programme.

Samaritans runs the Managing Suicidal Contacts courses which equip staff with the skills to identify people at risk and help them. They also run Trauma Support Training courses for driver managers and union reps so that they can assist staff after a traumatic incident.  Since the partnership began in 2010, the charity has run more than 800 courses across Britain, training 10, 255 railway staff so far.*

Network Rail mobile operations manager Andrew Wellbeloved also attended the Managing Suicidal Contacts course, enabling him to help a suicidal man in the North West of England.

"I approached the man, who seemed to be confused and disorientated, but clearly in a state of despair.  He told me that he wanted to die.  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,” Andrew said.

He managed to talk to the man and get him to safety, after which he called the emergency services, asking them not to use their sirens, and they took the man to hospital.

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

Joe Grimes, who is a Dispatcher for Virgin Trains West Coast and has worked for the company for ten years, attended the Managing Suicidal Contacts course, and used his training at an incident when travelling to Birmingham by train.  

Joe encountered a very distressed young woman and was able to talk to her and get appropriate support.  He said:  “Samaritans’ training meant that I knew what to say, how to handle the situation and how to achieve a positive outcome.”

Inspector Pippa Smith, of British Transport Police’s Suicide Prevention and Mental Health team, said: “The courses provided by Samaritans have proven invaluable as they have provided our officers – and rail staff – with the skills and confidence to provide vital assistance to people who feel there is nowhere else to turn.
“With almost 100 officers trained and many life-saving interventions having taken place, there can be little doubt that the Samaritans courses give us the tools to not only save lives, but give people another chance at life.”

Samaritans and the rail industry have been working together to reduce suicides on the railways since 2010, running the We’re in Your Corner and Men on the Ropes campaigns, which aim to encourage
those most at risk of suicide, particularly middle-aged working class men, to seek support if they are struggling to cope.

Samaritans’ CEO Ruth Sutherland said: “Working with Network Rail, the British Transport Police, train operating companies and the wider industry has been invaluable and has helped raise awareness of Samaritans’ work and the need to reduce suicides on the railway.

“Samaritans is there round the clock, every day of the year, to help people who are struggling to cope. Samaritans’ volunteers regularly hold events and outreach activities at stations to connect with commuters and railway passengers. Samaritans is also there to help the local community when a railway suicide has taken place.

“Samaritans welcomes additional safety measures introduced by Network Rail at stations such as mid-platform fencing, platform hatching, trespass guards, platform end barriers and smart cameras. These changes help to make travelling on the railways safer for everyone. Training 10,000 staff is an important milestone because the more potential we have to reach out to and help people through the programme, the better. We will go forward building on this strong foundation.”

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."

Suicide Prevention Video Link:



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For more information about the work of Samaritans please contact Sue Royal on 0208 394 8348 or go to railcompanies@samaritans.org

Notes to editors:

  • Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone who is struggling to cope. Please call 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of the nearest branch.
  • * Figures from 2010 to July 2015.