“Encountering someone in distress on the railway can be a daunting experience. That’s why we’ve launched this app for ScotRail employees.”
The UK has upped its efforts to lower the suicide rate on its rail networks, after Scotland’s primary operator released an app for staff smartphones and tablets that helps them to spot the warning signs and offers guidance on how to support those in need. Developed in conjunction with the Samaritans, the UK’s leading suicide prevention charity, and Network Rail, the manager of much of the UK network, the ScotRail app is available to all of the operator’s 4,500 employees and provides them with a direct link with the British Transport Police.
As part of the ScotRail’s commitment to the scheme, 300 frontline ScotRail Alliance colleagues have completed training with the Samaritans that offered specialist training which conditions trainees to trust in their instincts if they are concerned about a member of the public:
- Suicidal thoughts can often be temporary
- Strike up a conversation with a simple question such as asking about the weather, or where they’re travelling today
- If you think someone may need help, introduce yourself, encourage them to talk and focus on listening
- There’s no evidence that talking to someone who could be at risk can make things worse
- It’s important to act. If you don’t feel comfortable approaching the person yourself, tell a member of staff, a police officer or dial 999.
David Lister, ScotRail Alliance sustainability & safety assurance director, said supporting those with mental health problems was a serious commitment for the operator. “Encountering someone in distress on the railway can be a daunting experience, even for the most experienced of our people. That’s why we’ve launched this app for ScotRail employees, to offer quick help and advice to those who come across someone who needs urgent support.”
Network Rail has been working with the Samaritans for some time now in their efforts to prevent suicide on the tracks. The Rail Industry Suicide Prevention Programme in 2017 helped the industry reduce the number of suicide deaths experienced on the tracks by 15 compared with the previous year. A spokesperson from Network Rail said that the rail industry has made “significant strides” in preventing suicides. “In the last two years we have seen 47 fewer people take their own lives on our rail network, 18 per cent fewer than in 2015/16.”
Meanwhile, for the US rail network the Federal Railroad Administration has published six key research areas in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center that could help mitigate tragedy. Included is the responsible reporting of incidents to prevent copycat attempts; GIS mapping to provide insights into why they occur in certain locations; and a programme of suicide countermeasure pilot projects.
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