Samaritans train 30,000 in suicide prevention

Suicide prevention on the railways. Image: Samaritans and Network Rail

Samaritans, the UK-wide volunteer service for personal support, has teamed up with Network Rail, the UK government’s infrastructure agency. Together, they have trained over 30,000 rail staff to help prevent suicide. The announcement comes on the culmination of Mental Health Awareness Week. Samaritans say it has reached a new milestone with its Managing Suicidal Contacts programme. They say it’s thanks to the partnership with Network Rail and the wider rail industry.

Rail staff have always been praised for their sympathetic industry-wide attitude towards people facing crises in their lives. More than 30,000 staff members across Britain’s railways have been trained to help. The campaign is now in its fourteenth year. The partnership involving rail staff and British Transport Police has trained individuals to have the confidence and skills to identify vulnerable people and start a conversation to get them to safety.

When in crisis, help is there

Since 2010, rail employees have made thousands of potentially life-saving interventions. “Our partnership with Network Rail started in 2010. Its impact is immense”, said Olivia Cayley, Samaritans head of rail programme. “In recent years, people have had to deal with a global pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis, which has had a huge impact on people’s well-being. Having the knowledge and confidence to reach out to someone in distress and offer your time to listen and help is hugely beneficial. We know that one in five people have suicidal thoughts. This partnership with Network Rail means if people need someone to talk to when in crisis, they will not be alone, and help is there for them.”

“It’s a brilliant achievement to see that we’ve hit another key milestone”, said Louise McNally, suicide prevention lead at Network Rail. “Over 30,000 rail staff are now trained to help support and identify vulnerable people across the rail network who may be at risk of suicide.” Network Rail, for their part, has highlighted the issue before and takes the matter seriously with their own programme of information and engagement.

Confident in approaching people

Railway professionals are inherently well-placed to notice when something is not quite right on the network. They very often find themselves in a position to help. Craig Munday, a mobile operations manager at Network Rail, is just one of the many beneficiaries of the Managing Suicidal Contacts training. “The main thing that stuck with me is how little time someone harbours suicidal thoughts and how just asking them a question could break that thought”, he said.

Still image from Go with your instincts video, produced by the Samaritans. Image: © Samaritans. 

Craig added that it had changed the whole way he looked at things when he was at work and at stations. “You never know who you’re going to help just by saying ‘hi’. I think I was always cautious, but it’s made me more confident to approach people.”

Anyone in the UK can call the Samaritans, from any phone on 116 123. The number is not recorded on any system or documentation. The service encourages a proactive approach, too. “If you think someone might need help, trust your instincts and start a simple conversation. You could save a life”, says the organisation. “Starting conversations with people who are struggling to cope can save lives. But you should always put your personal safety first. We want to give people the confidence to talk to someone in distress if they feel comfortable to. If you don’t, always find someone else to help or call 999 [the national emergency service number].”

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is UK correspondent for RailTech.com and Railfreight.com

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