Working together to help stop suicides on the railways

A train operator and suicide prevention charity are working in partnership in a bid to reduce the number of people who take their lives on the railway.

Samaritans signs at Hastings Station.

Mark Lawson, driver manager at Hastings station, pictured with representatives from the Samaritans. SUS-160720-140143001
Samaritans signs at Hastings Station. Mark Lawson, driver manager at Hastings station, pictured with representatives from the Samaritans. SUS-160720-140143001

In July, it was revealed that last year the number of suicides and suspected suicides on the UK’s railways dropped from 287 to 252 - a fall of 12 per cent on the previous year. It is the first time the year-on-year figures have fallen since 2012.

And Southeastern and the Hastings and Rother Samaritans are working together to do their bit to drive those figures down even further.

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New signage has recently been put up on the platforms at Hastings station, urging those who are feeling suicidal to stop and call the Samaritans, rather than taking that ultimate step.

Southeastern driver manager Mark Lawson, who acts as a health and wellbeing champion for the train operator, says the signs have proved effective.

He said: “We take our guidance on what we do from the Samaritans and these signs are effective, so important to have in place.

“The signs are located at the end of the platforms where people can easily see them.

“We hope that having these in place will encourage anyone needing help to call the Samaritans.”

During his 11 years on the railway, Mark has had first-hand experience of railway suicides and turned to Samaritans for support following his own experiences.

He said: “As a driver manager I have been called out to several incidents and as a driver I had to deal with being involved in them myself.

“Southeastern and the Samaritans were excellent in helping me come to terms with this.”

He added: “It’s really important for us to get these signs up, be visible on the platforms and let people know that if they’re at a Southeastern station and they need help, we’re there for them.

“We want to prevent as many of these incidents happening as possible.”

In 2010, Samaritans and Network Rail formed a national partnership to try to reduce the number of suicides on the railway and improve support to those affected by them.

Part of the partnership is to train staff on how to approach and help a person who might be at risk.

Mark said: “Our staff are given training to empower them to help people who may be upset or needing support.

“We have training sessions with the Samaritans and we have them visit stations and talk to passengers.

“We’re also hosting a Network Rail trial app on our network, the app will allow people to report it if they feel someone looks distressed or in need of our help.

“We’re constantly looking at ways to reduce these incidents, and make people feel more supported.”

The Samaritans also provide support to those who may have witnessed a person being hit by a train.

Following an incident at Rye last year, representatives from the Samaritans were available at both Hastings and Rye stations a week on from the tragic event.

• If you are feeling suicidal, or are experiencing feelings of distress and despair, call Samaritans on 116 123 (freephone).

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