Focus on railway deaths

Railway crossing at Scremerston.
Railway crossing at Scremerston.
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Multi-agency work is pushing the message that help is at hand in an attempt to prevent tragedies on railway lines.

The East Coast line has seen three incidents of lives lost in the Berwick area in recent months, and last week another fatality was confirmed on tracks to the north of Dunbar.

This week, Inspector Pippa Smith from British Transport Police’s Suicide and Mental Health Team said: “Every suicide is an absolute tragedy and every attempt highlights someone desperately in need of help. Protecting life is BTP’s main priority. We work closely with Network Rail, the Rail Safety and Standards Board, the Samaritans and health and social care services, to tackle suicide prevention and suicides on the railway.

“We have suicide prevention and mental health teams based across the country which are staffed by both BTP and NHS mental health nurses who make sure vulnerable people on trains and at stations get the appropriate help from health experts.

“Over 1,000 BTP officers so far have attended courses in supporting suicidal people on the railway, run by the Samaritans on behalf of the rail industry, extra to their standard police training. Our aim is to ensure the vulnerability of an individual and the risk they pose to themselves and others is recognised by specialist services, ultimately to prevent self-harm.”

The message from Samaritans is “We don’t just hear you, we listen,” reassuring callers that dedicated listeners are interested in the real problems they are grappling with.

CEO Ruth Sutherland said: “Life’s pressures can build, without you even realising. It’s all too easy to turn away, ignore how you’re feeling, and put on a brave face. But you don’t have to do that with Samaritans.

“It might be the pressures of family, relationships, work, health, finances – or anything else. Life can be tough, and it’s a strength not a weakness to reach out for support. Talk to Samaritans for free from any phone, email us, text us or come into a branch and chat face to face. Whatever works best for you, we’ll listen and help you find a way through.”

Network Rail has worked with Samaritans since 2010. As well as advertising campaigns in stations, the partnership has seen more than 11,500 rail staff trained in listening and confidence skills, enabling them to identify people at risk and help them. In the past year, railway staff may have prevented more than 450 people from harming themselves on the rail network.