Press release: Samaritans’ training helps railway staff to reduce suicides

New figures released today show a promising 11 per cent decline in suicides on the railways across Great Britain

More than 1,000 staff at 220 locations across the rail network have received Samaritans’ innovative suicide prevention training over the past year. This training forms part of a partnership between Network Rail and Samaritans to reduce railway suicides by 20 per cent over five years launched in January 2010.

New figures released today (Friday 17 June) reveal that, following 233 suicides in 2009/20101 across Great Britain, the number of deaths for the year 2010/2011 has fallen to 207 – accounting for an 11 per cent decrease.

With £5 million of Network Rail investment, the five-year project includes:

  • Intervention training for staff: Frontline rail staff and British Transport Police (BTP) are trained in making the initial approach to encourage someone away from potential danger, before offering emotional support services.
  • Support for drivers after a trauma:  Drivers can experience symptoms such as flashbacks and sleeplessness in the aftermath of a death. This training ensures drivers who witness fatalities on the rail network are fully supported by managers. 
  • Samaritans’ support for individuals:  Local Samaritans’ volunteers are called out to offer the service to emotionally vulnerable individuals at railway stations.
  • Looking after witnesses: Samaritans’ volunteers provide face-to-face visits at stations in the aftermath of a suicide offering support to staff and witnesses, and handing out contact cards with details of the helpline. 
  • BTP referral process: British Transport Police refer vulnerable and suicidal people they encounter in and around stations to Samaritans.
  • Awareness campaign targeting those most at risk:  Nearly 80 per cent (79.1%) of rail suicides are by men. Samaritans’ national awareness campaign specifically targets working class men in their 30s, 40s and 50s, who are the most likely of all to die by suicide on the railways, with prominent posters and advertising around stations and at automatic ticket barriers.
  • Guidance to the media in reporting rail suicides: Samaritans works with the media to encourage responsible reporting of suicides in order to reduce the likelihood of imitational deaths.

Rachel Kirby-Rider, Director of Fundraising and Communications at Samaritans, said: "Whilst the latest railway suicide figures are promising, the next few years could see rising unemployment and an increase in financial worries which may negatively impact on the nation’s wellbeing. We cannot afford to be complacent and that is why this programme of work shows our commitment to ensuring the figures decline year on year.

"This partnership is the first coordinated national approach to suicide prevention on the rail network. We are pleased to see that, within the first year of delivering the project we already have examples of staff being able to intervene in potentially tragic situations."

David Higgins, Chief Executive at Network Rail, said: "We know that rail staff who have undertaken Samaritans’ training programme have already been able to intervene in potential suicides. Each suicide is a tragedy for the individuals and families involved, as well as having an inevitable impact on rail staff and passenger. It is encouraging that the rail industry is pulling together to work with Samaritans who have provided a responsive and professional service to our staff."

For more information, case studies, a background briefing and to book interviews please contact Sal Lalji, Press & PR Manager at Samaritans on 020 8394 8342, out of hours on 07943 809 162 or email press@samaritans.org

 

Notes to Editors

  1. Figures are for the financial year 01 April 2009 to 31 March 2010 and 01 April 2010 to 31 March 2011 from the Rail Safety and Standards Board.

Please report this story responsibly – don’t identify specific suicide hotspots and avoid giving too many details of past rail suicides and the locations in which they took place as this may lead to imitational suicides in local areas.

There is substantial evidence to prove that vulnerable people are at risk of using information that identifies specific locations and techniques to kill themselves, which we are working hard to avoid.

Samaritans is here for anyone feeling down and depressed, or for those people who are struggling to cope. Our volunteers are available 24/7 by phone: (UK) 08457 90 90 90, (ROI) 1850 60 9090, email: jo@samaritans.org, or face-to-face: visit www.samaritans.org for details of your local branch.

Network Rail is the 'not for dividend' owner and operator of Britain’s railway infrastructure, which includes the tracks, signals, tunnels, bridges, viaducts, level crossings and stations – the largest of which they also manage. Network Rail aims to provide a safe, reliable and efficient rail infrastructure for freight and passenger trains to use.