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Samaritans and Network Rail in new partnership to reduce suicide on the railways

Samaritans and Network Rail today announce a new five-year partnership to reduce the number of suicides on the railways. The project will be delivered through training for rail staff in dealing with potential suicides and the aftermath of a suicide, partnering with mental health, social and other services in the local community, national communications campaigns, and ensuring responsible reporting of suicides in the media.

In 2008 there were more than 6,000 suicides across the UK. Overall rates of suicides have been declining steadily for the last 10 years, but the number of suicides on railways has remained relatively static at approximately 200 deaths per year. Each year suicides can cost Network Rail around £15m, solely in compensation payments to train operators.

With the aim of reducing the number of suicides on the railways by 20% over five years, and an investment of £5m, the partnership delivered jointly by Samaritans and Network Rail will feature an integrated programme of activity including:

  • Samaritans posters with helpline contact details at key stations around the country;
  • Bespoke training for Network Rail and Train Operating Company staff in how to identify potentially suicidal people and intervene in a potential suicide, and on dealing with the impact of suicide on railways staff;
  • Developing a suicide response service with Samaritans branches to ensure support is available in the aftermath of a suicide;
  • National communications campaigns increasing awareness of Samaritans’ support services for those who feel suicidal, targeting high risk groups;
  • Working with the media to ensure responsible reporting of suicides, reducing the likelihood of copycat suicides.

Starting in January 2010, the rollout of the programme of work will be phased, initially focusing on the priority locations identified by Network Rail as areas most affected by suicides. By the end of 2010 the project will see a full rollout cross the rest of the country.

Samaritans’ chief executive Catherine Johnstone said: “This innovative new partnership comes at a vital time, as we are likely to see an increase in suicides as a result of the recession over the coming years. Although we have been working with rail companies for many years, this will be the first time the industry has taken action on this scale to reduce suicides on the railways. We hope this partnership will produce a model which can be replicated in other high risk locations, helping Samaritans to achieve our vision that fewer people die by suicide.”

Iain Coucher, Network Rail chief executive, said: “Every year there are too many suicides on the railway. Every one of these is a tragedy. As a responsible company Network Rail will do what it can to reduce this tragic toll. That is why we have entered into this important partnership with Samaritans. Their expertise and insight will help us together train our people in managing this sensitive and vital issue.”   

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