Access London interviewed Bridget Eddy, a Network Rail lawyer, about how to recognise when someone is suicidal and what to do in such a situation.
On average, there is an attempted or completed suicide on the rail network every 31 hours. In 2010, Network Rail on behalf of the rail industry and Samaritans entered into a partnership to reduce rail suicides and to improve support for those affected by them.
According to Bridget, training rail personnel such as herself is a key part of the Samaritans work with the rail industry. She recently undertook the Samaritan’s Managing Suicidal Contacts course. This is a day long course to provide people with the knowledge and skills needed to recognise a suicidal person and lead them to a place of safety.
On the course, Bridget learned about what exactly constitutes emotional health. Emotional health is about how balanced and confident we feel. We can think of it on a sliding scale. We are all somewhere on the scale, and people will go up and down it. However, if something happens to make us feel low, getting back to normality can be difficult.
People further down the scale tend to be: upset, sad, withdrawn, angry, tearful.
People higher up the scale tend to be: relaxed, happy, content, easy-going, laid back, chatty, fun.
If people are exhibiting signs that they are low down on the emotional scale, it is important to talk to them in an understanding and empathetic way. In particular:
- React: phrases such as “that must have been difficult” show you recognise how the person feels.
- Ask open questions: ask questions such as What? How? Where? Why? to encourage the person to open up.
- Summarise: this shows you have listened and understood what they have told you.
According to the Samaritans, if someone is feeling so upset that they might have suicidal intentions, it is important to spot this straight away and talk to them using the advice above. Signs of suicidal intent can include being withdrawn or isolated from others, giving possessions away, expressing feelings of failure and lack of hope, or unable to see a meaning or purpose for life.
After talking to the person, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123 and pass the phone over. Once out of immediate danger, you could arrange for them to visit a Samaritans branch in person.
For more information on Samaritans and the rail industry suicide prevention programme visit:
If you or someone you know need help, you can ring the Samaritans on: