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Suicide prevention on the railway

How our world-leading, cross-industry suicide prevention programme with Samaritans is helping to save lives.

In 2020/21 there were 247 suicides/suspected suicides on the over ground rail network – a decrease of 36 from the previous year.

In recent years, the rail industry has made significant strides with its partners in preventing suicides on the railway, and despite this increase in suicides, we continue to see interventions, with rail employees, the Police and public intervening in more than 1,810 suicide attempts on the railway in 2020/21. That’s a sobering thought. It means those individuals have gone on to live their lives, and that our staff and passengers have been spared the trauma of being involved in potentially tragic events.

Central to our programme is the belief that suicide is not inevitable and we can work collectively to reduce the traumatic loss of life and devastation that suicide causes.

Rail worker talking to distressed man

Working closely with other organisations

In partnership with the wider rail industry, Samaritans and British Transport Police our suicide prevention programme aims to reduce suicide on the railway. We work closely with other suicide prevention experts, national agencies and charities such as Public Health England and the National Suicide Prevention Alliance (NSPA) to develop and maximise its impact.

We recognise the important role we can play in influencing and supporting a wider community-based approach to suicide prevention – addressing the challenge suicide presents to society as a whole and working with local authorities to ensure that suicide prevention strategies and measures exist for high-risk communities near the railway.

National suicide prevention agenda

The rail industry has become influential in promoting the suicide prevention agenda nationally, focusing its efforts around a number of calls to action including:

  • working to de-stigmatise mental health and suicide and encourage vulnerable people to seek help
  • supporting the Government’s target of a 10 per cent reduction in suicides by 2020/21, with appropriate resources to be made available to ensure it is achieved
  • supporting the implementation of compulsory suicide prevention training for all those in the health sector
  • working with schools to make young people aware of mental health issues to allow them to look after themselves and others.
  • the concept that suicide is everybody’s business

Our programme

Our suicide prevention programme includes the following initiatives:

  • training railway employees to look out for and offer support to people who may be considering taking their own life on the railway – to date, 20,000 railway employees have received training to intervene in suicide attempts (and in 2019/20 rail employees, the Police and public intervened in more than 1,881 suicide attempts on the railway)
  • working in partnership with Samaritans and other charities within the wider community to de-stigmatise suicide and promote help-seeking behaviour
  • deploying mitigation measures, such as fencing to prevent access to the tracks at high-risk locations
  • developing new and innovative ways to meet the suicide challenge on the rail network
  • contributing our specialist knowledge of suicide prevention to national strategies and guidance so others can benefit from our experience
  • Commissioning bespoke research into rail suicides

Suicide prevention campaigns

There’s always hope

‘There Is Always hope’ is a campaign by Network Rail in partnership with national mental health charity, Chasing the Stigma. The campaign aims to amplify the charity’s mission to humanise and normalise mental health, remove stigma attached to it and signpost people to help, highlighting the support options available to vulnerable people before they reach crisis point. 

Small Talk Saves Lives

The rail industry works in partnership with Samaritans and British Transport Police on campaigns with the aim of preventing people taking their lives on the rail network. Our most recent campaign is Small Talk Saves Lives, a bystander campaign that encourages people travelling on the railway to support those who may be in emotional crisis around them.

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