John Newland was interested in becoming a Samaritans listening volunteer, but having a history of suicide in the family he had been concerned about his ability to separate his private life from the cases he’d face being a volunteer.
Thanks to the partnership between Network Rail and Samaritans, John, who is a senior sponsor for Network Rail in the electrification team based in Cardiff, was able to attend a managing suicidal contacts (MSC) course and was later selected to be trained to become a listening volunteer for the Samaritans.
“As with all my experiences with Samaritans, the course was very positively presented, very professional and targeted.
“It was encouraging to see the huge spread of attendees, including British Transport Police Officers, gate staff, train despatch, Network Rail staff and train drivers.
“The training felt like we really were all in it together. I note suicide on the railways dropped in 2015/16 by about 12 per cent. What this demonstrates is the increased awareness among railway workers in all areas of the business, and the positive results interventions are having.
“I would recommend all railway workers, whatever their role, attend this course.”
Before receiving the training I had an incident at a station where I saw a man acting strange. I instinctively knew there was something wrong.
“He was standing alone at the end of the platform and constantly looking down at his feet. He had no luggage and he didn’t seem to be taking any notice of the passing trains or customer information boards. I felt a bit self-conscious moving to speak to him, but resolved that I would. As I got closer he looked up, saw me and slowly walked past me to join a train that had just pulled in.
“I’ll never know if he was suicidal. At the time I lacked the training that would’ve given me the tools to know how to start up a conversation. Now I’d have confidence to act more quickly if I found myself in similar circumstances.”
“Samaritans aims for fewer people to die by suicide. The reduction in the number of deaths by suicide on the railway show just how important and how effective training can be.
“We know many people don’t want to take their lives, but get to the point of feeling there is no alternative. We also know that these feelings can pass given intervention at the right time.
“It’s as simple as just walking up to someone and engaging them in conversation. You may find you have got it wrong and they are perfectly fine. However, speaking to someone who really is at their saddest point and the warmth of a friendly and welcoming person may be all they need to shake them out of these dark thoughts.
“Giving your time to someone in need, even if only briefly, is the most wonderful thing you can do when they really need contact.”