We’re doing all we can to prevent rail suicides and support those affected by them.

Every suicide affects family and friends, as well as our employees, commuters and the wider community. Along with Britain’s train operating companies and British Transport Police, we’ve been working with Samaritans to raise awareness of its services since 2010.

The number of suicides on the railway over the last two years has fallen by 18 per cent. In 2016/17, 237 people took their lives on the railway – the lowest number since 2010/11. Over the same period, railway employees, police officers and members of the public have intervened in over 2,500 suicide attempts on Britain’s railway.

There are 16,000 railway employees and stakeholders who are now trained in suicide prevention techniques, meaning that one in six employees are now able to support those who come to the railway in emotional crisis.

For every life lost on the railway six are saved. Sadly, of those who do seek to take their lives on the railway one in five fail and suffer severe life-changing injuries.

In 2016, our suicide prevention partnership won the Charity Times Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Project of the Year award.

Small Talk Saves Lives

The rail industry is working in partnership with Samaritans and the British Transport Police on the Small Talk Saves Lives bystander campaign, launched in November 2017. The first campaign of its type on the railway, it encourages the general public to support those who may be in emotional crisis around them on the railway network.

The campaign aims to give commuters the confidence to trust their own instincts and intervene if they see someone vulnerable who may be at risk of suicide on or around the rail network, and to talk to them to interrupt their suicidal thoughts.

Four ‘lifesaving questions’, successfully used by rail employees who have approached someone vulnerable on the railway, are at the centre of the campaign (see the gallery below).

Small Talk Saves Lives encourages passengers to notice what may be warning signs, such as someone standing alone and isolated, looking distant or withdrawn, staying on the platform a long time without boarding a train or displaying something out of the ordinary in their behaviour or appearance. There is no single sign or combination of behaviours that mean someone is suicidal but, if something doesn’t feel right, the message is to act.

The campaign is based on research by Middlesex University and developed in consultation with people who have been personally affected by suicide, including where a loved one has taken their life on the railways. Before the launch across digital and traditional media, as well as with posters in traditional railway settings, the campaign’s potential effectiveness was tested with commuters, the general public and people with lived experience.

The initiative also has the backing of the leading suicide prevention expert, Professor Rory O’Connor from the University of Glasgow.

I am pleased to support Samaritans’ new campaign, Small Talk Saves Lives.  It aims to tackle one of the myths around suicide and its prevention: namely, that there is nothing we can do to prevent suicide. There is, and we all have a role to play. It is great to see this campaign encouraging people to reach out if they think someone may be suicidal. It could save lives.

Professor Rory O’Connor

Suicide is preventable. A short conversation with someone who may be struggling to cope can go a long way, and might even help save a life.

How you can help: Small Talk Saves Lives [Samaritans website]

Make small talk and you could save a life (published 15 November 2017)

Members of the public increasingly preventing suicides on the railway (published 07 November 2018)

The ‘We listen’ campaign

Rolled out in early 2016, ‘We listen’ reassures potential callers to Samaritans that its dedicated listeners are interested in the problems they are grappling with, including suicidal thoughts.

The charity published statistics showing that while nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of people in the UK like to think of themselves as good listeners, less than a quarter (23 per cent) feel that they can talk when something’s on their mind.

The campaign also encourages people to reach out for help before they get to a point of crisis, and Samaritans works with rail employees and the public, offering emotional support following traumatic incidents of death or injury.

How emotional first aid training is helping to save lives

Our suicide prevention partnership has funded advertising campaigns in stations, in the community and at big events. In addition, more than 16,000 of our employees have completed the Managing Suicidal Contacts course. They are trained to spot anyone who may be at risk of taking their own life and to lead them to safety and sources of support.

We continue to raise awareness of our commitment to suicide prevention online and across social media, with people invited to explore and share a short film showing the difference between hearing and listening.

In the film, shot from the point of view of someone having a conversation with a friend going through difficult times, a series of distractions highlight that it’s not always easy to hear what really matters. The aim is to emphasise how valuable listening is when supporting people who may be struggling, and to encourage more people to contact Samaritans before their feelings overwhelm them.