The number of suicides and suspected suicides on UK railways dropped by 12% last year – the first annual reduction in the number since 2012.
A report by the Rail Safety Standards Board (RSSB) revealed that there were 252 suicides or suspected suicides on UK railways last year, down from 287 the previous year. This is about 5% of all suicides.
The drop in numbers is being attributed to suicide prevention measures put in place as part of the partnership between Samaritans, Network Rail and the wider rail industry.
Since 2010, when the partnership between Samaritans and Network Rail was first launched, Samaritans has trained more than 10,500 rail staff to intervene to help vulnerable people who may be considering taking their own lives.
Since April last year, 1,137 potentially life-saving interventions have been carried out, according to data from RSSB’s Annual Safety Performance Report.
“The way I deal with it, I make sure I say hello and ask are you okay, because that is the beginning of a conversation,” said Evita Sitei, a GWR service delivery assistant.
“Then I weigh the situation and see how they are. If I see that they don’t really want to answer, I know there is danger, and from their facial expression you can tell this is someone who is really in trouble.
“By me being there, our people being there, it is very helpful, as you notice these things and we are able to deal with them.”
Samaritans’ We Listen campaign, supported by the rail industry, was launched in February with posters in railway stations across England, Scotland and Wales containing hidden messages highlighting the way people hide their problems when they are actually struggling.
Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland said: “The reduction in suicides on the railways shows that the partnership between Samaritans and the wider railway industry is making a real difference. We can build on this by training more railway staff and by encouraging people to contact Samaritans when they are finding it hard to cope.”
Ian Stevens, Network Rail’s programme manager, suicide prevention, said: “On behalf of Network Rail and the wider rail industry we welcome this significant drop in rail suicides, and hope the trend continues in line with the ongoing work of our suicide prevention programme and long-term relationship with Samaritans.”
As well as funding advertising campaigns in stations, in the community and at big events, other suicide prevention measures on the railways as part of the partnership include barriers at stations and outreach work by Samaritans volunteers.