On 25 April Ian Stevens, Programme Manager – Suicide Prevention, met with Jackie Doyle-Price the governments Suicide Prevention Minister, along with colleagues from British Transport Police and Transport for London. Supporting Jackie were representatives from the Department for Transport and the Department of Health.
The meeting was extremely positive with the minister opening remarks praising the rail industry and British Transport Police for all the ‘trail blazing’ work it does in the suicide prevention arena. She went on to say that she would like other organisations to learn from our work to help prevent suicides and support those in crisis.
She went on to say that in her mind interventions in suicide attempts where key to lowering the suicide rate in this country and the work the industry had done in this area to date was second to none.
In the hour spent with the minister the following topics were discussed, the:
- number and cost (emotional and financial) of suicides on the railway
- number of staff that had been trained to intervene in suicide attempts and support those in crisis (circa 20,000) and the number of interventions that have been made in 2018/19, 2270
- challenges of getting some local authorities to engage with the rail industry in the suicide prevention space. She requested her Department of Health colleague to consider how this could be addressed and suggested Suicide Prevention Action Plans should clearly state the need to consider fatalities on the rail network
- collaborative work that had taken place at Milton Keynes/Bletchley following a suicide cluster there in October 2017. She was impressed by the case study that had been written by the industry in the light of their experiences there
- research work with the University of Middlesex and anthropologists to better understand reasons for suicide on the railway and identify ways to further reduce numbers
- manner in which suicide events are communicated to passengers. Currently a very conservative approach is taken, but there is a view that by being more open fewer may attempt to take their lives on the railway. The minister asked her Department of Health colleague to work with the industry to look at how it might communicate such messages without increasing the risk of contagion
- issue BTP has with a ‘lack of beds’ and support staff in the NHS to accommodate those who may be in crisis, thus tying up the time of officers who are then left to support them
- need for the Departments for Transport and Health to work more closely with the transport sector to reduce the number of suicides on the national transport infrastructure