Why do we seem to see so many suicides on the railways at the moment?

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cambsy

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Reading the forum lately, couldn't help but notice a lot delays attributed to suicides, any ideas why it is happening so much? I think it could be current economic climate making people depressed, and it is very nasty for railway staff involved, and the bereaved families, just be interested in peoples views on this from inside and outside the railways, what can if anything be done about the high number of suicides at the moment? though i don't know
 
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deltic1989

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I would agree that there have been a high number of deaths caused by people being hit by trains but not all of these have been put down to suicide, most of them have been tragic accidents. Some of these accidents can be attributed to people not fully understanding how dangerous a railway can be.
People decide to end thier lives for a veriety of reasons, and depression can be a factor, but this can be for reasons other than the state of the economy.
We have some very learned people and people in the business of railways on this forum that know a lot more about this subject.
I must say though a rather morbid topic.
 

tsr

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Your question is interesting (not from a personal "I want to think about suicides" point of view, mind, because I'm most certainly not like that). Right from the start, I will say that I have no idea what any definite known causes for the recent spate of railway-related suicides are/were, and whether or not any particular cause has been identified as a theme. I'm sure economic uncertainty may be a valid explanation for some of them, and it does seem that a lot of suicides occur closer to the winter equinox.

What can be done? That's a really tough question to answer.

I know that some stations now have posters and phones linking to organisations including the Samaritans, which is a good idea, in my opinion.

Technological improvements such as platform-edge and passenger-side doors are tricky to implement where more than one door layout is in use (for differing classes of trains), so many mainline railway stations are unlikely to see these pieces of equipment. Someone on the forum recently suggested roller blinds to prevent unauthorised track access, and I identified a number of design problems with these, but it's an interesting idea.

At stations such as Purley, you'll find fences (with gates for stopping services' passengers) preventing any suicides from fast line platforms with few stopping services, but this is impractical for many stations with greater platform flexibility. Desperate people might also vault the fences or jump in front of slow trains.

It might be interesting to see if stations with ticket barriers have fewer suicide attempts, but I should think this would be a very weak correlation. Barriers may, however, prevent "spur of the moment" actions.

Perhaps passengers could wait in concourses until trains are due, with access barriers then opened, but overcrowding would probably become an issue, and many stations are unstaffed and do not have sufficient waiting areas.

As for preventing accidents, I think we need more education and greater numbers of staff on platforms.
 

NY Yankee

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I realize the UK isn't a utopia, but it can't be as bad as the US. In the US, racism, homophobia, and unemployment are prevalent. College graduates can't find jobs and many people hate the president (due to his skin color). Bullying and cyberbullying are also problems. If you think it's bad in the UK, spend a week in the United States.
 

Michael.Y

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I realize the UK isn't a utopia, but it can't be as bad as the US. In the US, racism, homophobia, and unemployment are prevalent. College graduates can't find jobs and many people hate the president (due to his skin color). Bullying and cyberbullying are also problems. If you think it's bad in the UK, spend a week in the United States.
Horses for courses. Each country has its own problems, and social perceptions of problems are different for each separate identity - let alone nationality, class, ethnicity etc.

For example - people with problems here wouldn't be considered to have problems in say South Sudan or Zimbabwe.

Depression is a mental condition which affects anyone regardless of identity / social class / ethnicity etc. It explains why everyone from Stephen Fry and Carrie Fisher (both massively successful persons with the world at their feet) to the lowest of the low can suffer from it. There's no easy answer.

Racism and homophobia are just as prevalent in the UK, in particular from our churches, synagogues and mosques to our political classes and of course, the media. I am a college/university graduate and although I have a job which I love doing and wouldn't give for the world, it's not in the field I spent three years and nearly £10k paying for. Also, cyberbullying is a universal thing now. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube permeate national boundaries far easier than any global terrorism.

Not having a go, just counterpointing your observation. Yes we may have wonderful things like universal healthcare, gun control, legal abortions and civil partnerships for homosexuals which the USA doesn't seem to have got around to yet, but we also have our own, self-inflicted problems such as over-reliance on the welfare state, greedy bankers, unethical labour practices which have led to an influx of migrant workers etc.

On the other hand, we have to suffer cricket, instead of baseball. Go Giants!
 

John55

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Reading the forum lately, couldn't help but notice a lot delays attributed to suicides, any ideas why it is happening so much? I think it could be current economic climate making people depressed, and it is very nasty for railway staff involved, and the bereaved families, just be interested in peoples views on this from inside and outside the railways, what can if anything be done about the high number of suicides at the moment? though i don't know
What is the basis for your suggestion that there are more suicides than in previous years? It is very easy to look at a forum like this which highlights incidents that disrupt the network and assume things are worse than before when in fact it is little different than for many years.

After the last thread on this topic I looked at some papers on the internet and found general suicide rates in the UK are at historically low levels - for at least the last six or seven decades. The other point I noted were most of the papers on railway suicides were from Germany, Sweden and Australia as well as the UK which show fairly similar patterns of events with approx 5-8% of all suicides choosing the railway.

Another feature was that suicide rates on the railway are out of phase with those in general. In the UK general suicide rates are relatively constant through the year with a slightly elevated level (+5%) in February/March/April and a dip in the autumn (-5%) while railway rates are related to daylight hours so more take place in summer. The peak in railway suicides is much bigger in the long days compared to the short days.

From the researches I have made it would seem unlikely that a peak in "persons hit by a train" incidents on the railway in recent months is due to suicides. Perhaps it is due to long, dark evenings/ nights/mornings with people not looking hard enough for trains at crossings.
 

sunday

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Your question is interesting (not from a personal "I want to think about suicides" point of view, mind, because I'm most certainly not like that). Right from the start, I will say that I have no idea what any definite known causes for the recent spate of railway-related suicides are/were, and whether or not any particular cause has been identified as a theme. I'm sure economic uncertainty may be a valid explanation for some of them, and it does seem that a lot of suicides occur closer to the winter equinox.

What can be done? That's a really tough question to answer.

I know that some stations now have posters and phones linking to organisations including the Samaritans, which is a good idea, in my opinion.

Technological improvements such as platform-edge and passenger-side doors are tricky to implement where more than one door layout is in use (for differing classes of trains), so many mainline railway stations are unlikely to see these pieces of equipment. Someone on the forum recently suggested roller blinds to prevent unauthorised track access, and I identified a number of design problems with these, but it's an interesting idea.

At stations such as Purley, you'll find fences (with gates for stopping services' passengers) preventing any suicides from fast line platforms with few stopping services, but this is impractical for many stations with greater platform flexibility. Desperate people might also vault the fences or jump in front of slow trains.

It might be interesting to see if stations with ticket barriers have fewer suicide attempts, but I should think this would be a very weak correlation. Barriers may, however, prevent "spur of the moment" actions.

Perhaps passengers could wait in concourses until trains are due, with access barriers then opened, but overcrowding would probably become an issue, and many stations are unstaffed and do not have sufficient waiting areas.

As for preventing accidents, I think we need more education and greater numbers of staff on platforms.
Interestingly, not just in railway terms but in general terms it has been suggested that attitudes like this are what leads to higher instances of suicide. It is one of the few topics that we still have difficulty discussing as it is seen as "odd" or something that might "encourage suicide" when in fact the exact opposite has been shown to be true in various studies. Having a reasonable discourse on the topic of suicide is difficult, people working in the field (of which I am one) have been trying to find a way to reduce this stigma for a while now but it is so deeply ingrained in people that it really is a huge task. Statistics show that countries where there is more open discussions of issues like this more often have a lower suicide rate.

It's difficult, as someone above said suicide rates in this country are actually at one of their lowest recorded levels, not to say it isn't a problem. Charities like Samaritans, CALM and Mind are working really hard to keep this trend going but its a difficult thing.

My thought on railway suicides is that passengers often moan about being delayed but I honestly would rather be delayed every single day then ever get to the stage where I considered my own death to be my own option.
 

LE Greys

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Slightly off-topic, but still on a bridge over a railway, the Union Street bridge in Aberdeen recently had one of those Samaritans' signs added. I spoke to the old tramp who spends a lot of his time there (not sure of his name), and he's seen it happen twice, one of them survived, but both in recent years. An increase in unemployment and hard times for everyone might be a possible cause, but again it's only anecdotal.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
I would agree that there have been a high number of deaths caused by people being hit by trains but not all of these have been put down to suicide, most of them have been tragic accidents. Some of these accidents can be attributed to people not fully understanding how dangerous a railway can be.
That's a good point. I'm sure that if someone had gone under an HST at Reading on the 27th of November 2000, it would have been written off as suicide. It wasn't, nor was it an accident, but luckily I got away intact.
 

yorksrob

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I realize the UK isn't a utopia, but it can't be as bad as the US. In the US, racism, homophobia, and unemployment are prevalent. College graduates can't find jobs and many people hate the president (due to his skin color). Bullying and cyberbullying are also problems. If you think it's bad in the UK, spend a week in the United States.
Over here, the economy is a basket case - and no one seems to have any answers, other than to sell off all of the national assets. No one particularly trusts any of our political leaders. We unfortunately have our own share of religious fanatics. Unemployment, particularly among younger age cohorts is going through the roof. I don't have have much to do with social media, but I read that cyber bullying (not to mention cyber-crime in general) are also problems.

It seems that the problems we have over here aren't that different to those down your way.
 

khib70

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Slightly off-topic, but still on a bridge over a railway, the Union Street bridge in Aberdeen recently had one of those Samaritans' signs added. I spoke to the old tramp who spends a lot of his time there (not sure of his name), and he's seen it happen twice, one of them survived, but both in recent years. An increase in unemployment and hard times for everyone might be a possible cause, but again it's only anecdotal.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---


That's a good point. I'm sure that if someone had gone under an HST at Reading on the 27th of November 2000, it would have been written off as suicide. It wasn't, nor was it an accident, but luckily I got away intact.
There's one on the North Bridge in Edinburgh, which crosses the roof of Waverley. Several people have thrown themselves off and through the station roof in the past. Not only is this tragic from the individual's point of view but there is obviously a serious risk to rail staff and passengers on the station as well.

Obviously a lot of these incidents are accidents, however, someone climbing a bridge parapet and jumping off is clearly suicidal behaviour. I lost a friend that way ten years ago (not at the Waverley) and you do agonise about what drives someone to it. By the very nature of the action, we may never know.
 

deltic1989

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Obviously a lot of these incidents are accidents, however, someone climbing a bridge parapet and jumping off is clearly suicidal behaviour. I lost a friend that way ten years ago (not at the Waverley) and you do agonise about what drives someone to it. By the very nature of the action, we may never know.
I'm very sorry to hear that. I agree that by the nature of the act it is difficult to assertain what pushes people to it, but there are a number of people that attempt to take thier own life and fail. I will admit to being one of those number, my attempt had nothing to do with the railways but I can say that I was extremely depressed having had a long term relationship breakdown after giving up a job that I loved to try to make the relationship work. People do this for a number of reasons some that others would veiw as trivial but they obviously matter to the people at the time. Luckily I failed and faced my problems head on with help from some very good friends and pulled myself out of the pits of depression and I now lead a very happy life, I guess I'm one of the lucky ones.

As an aside something I stumbled upon whilst reasearching suicide whilst I was depressed. It is Illegal to attempt suicide, and at one time the penalty for attempting suicide was........................Death :roll:
 

Greeny

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I know that this sounds nasty, but having attended many fatalities, many of them suicides I cannot find any sympathy with those who choose to end their lives on the railway. I don’t dispute that their mood (and their thinking) must be desperate. My sympathy is with the Driver of the train, witnesses, those who have to gather up and deal with the remains, those they leave behind, and those who have to tell the relatives. Truthfully (and apart from five fatal accidents to staff) the only time I had any sympathy for a death was an old man who walked out of Rainhill Hospital for a walk. He was in his 80’s, didn’t know that railways were dangerous, and was stone deaf. He was walking with his back to traffic and looked round at the last second when he was hit – it was probably the vibration of the train coming up behind him that alerted him but it was too late then. Whilst I had no sympathy with suicides, I always behaved with respect at fatalities, unlike some of the Keystones and Civil Police who also attended.

G
 

matchmaker

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There's one on the North Bridge in Edinburgh, which crosses the roof of Waverley. Several people have thrown themselves off and through the station roof in the past. Not only is this tragic from the individual's point of view but there is obviously a serious risk to rail staff and passengers on the station as well.

Obviously a lot of these incidents are accidents, however, someone climbing a bridge parapet and jumping off is clearly suicidal behaviour. I lost a friend that way ten years ago (not at the Waverley) and you do agonise about what drives someone to it. By the very nature of the action, we may never know.
I've noticed a number of Samaritans notices recently. One at a nearby foot crossing (which has a history of suicides) and some at the top of platform ramps.
 

bailey65

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I have suffered from mild depression that's bad enough but not to the extreme of contemplating suicide it is a very debilitating and misunderstood illness i wouldn't want to imagine what the extreme end of it must be like.
The doctors just give out tablets because thre are only a handful of coundsellers for thousands of sufferers which at the extreme can be the difference between life and death.
Also a lot of people keep things bottled up and seem normal and ok on the outside until they reach the platform or bridge.
It is immpossible to prevent suicide on the railway how can anyone possibly tell if someone on a packed platform is suddenly going to do it you can't enclose and barriacade thousands of miles of railway.
 

NLC1072

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Surely the growing population of the UK is also a deciding factor in how many suicides we get on our railways?

Also a lot of immigrants that fail to "take root" in the UK could be more prone to this sort of thing? I remember seeing a program on how Polish immigrants have to live with worse off conditions here than they did in Poland in order to get by the first few months and I thought back then that's not something I could personally deal with.

Suicides I have had to deal with have all been of this nature so far, but maybe I am just unlucky?

NLC1072
 

PFX

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One near Paisley as well.
Also a 'one under' on the Jubilee on LU today though whether or not it was suicide or accident is unclear.

Both instances are equally tragic and the fact that someone could purposely use a train to kill themselves is an indication of how they are no longer thinking rationally, otherwise they would consider not just their own death, but the effects their actions may have on the driver primarily, but also those who have to clean up the mess and any family they leave behind.

I've had experience of suicide myself and the aftermath is not a place I'd ever want to be again.
 

142094

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Someone has pointed out that there is research out there, but IMO it is very basic and I can't easily find anything that has been done in the UK. One study has linked the number of suicides with increasing daylight hours, but at the same time this could be misleading due to the fact many lines do not have trains running on them in the hours of darkness.
 

Mutant Lemming

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Depends if the figures include attempted suicide as opposed to just fatalities. A large number of attempts end with severe injuires as opposed to death. Some years back I heard of figures as high as 40% for rate of survival for rail related incidents.
 

tsr

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It is immpossible to prevent suicide on the railway how can anyone possibly tell if someone on a packed platform is suddenly going to do it you can't enclose and barriacade thousands of miles of railway.
There are some visual clues which behaviour-recognising CCTV and trained members of staff can look out for. Indeed, there are some staff who are trained specially for this purpose at more than one station.

I agree that this cannot prevent all suicides, but it may prevent some of them. I certainly think that some types of accidents are as hard to predict.
 

NY Yankee

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Also a 'one under' on the Jubilee on LU today though whether or not it was suicide or accident is unclear.

Both instances are equally tragic and the fact that someone could purposely use a train to kill themselves is an indication of how they are no longer thinking rationally, otherwise they would consider not just their own death, but the effects their actions may have on the driver primarily, but also those who have to clean up the mess and any family they leave behind.

I've had experience of suicide myself and the aftermath is not a place I'd ever want to be again.
I thought the Jubilee had platform doors.
 

John55

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Someone has pointed out that there is research out there, but IMO it is very basic and I can't easily find anything that has been done in the UK. One study has linked the number of suicides with increasing daylight hours, but at the same time this could be misleading due to the fact many lines do not have trains running on them in the hours of darkness.
In my limited search the link with daylight hours was a common feature across several papers and countries. The correlation made was a desire of the person to see what they were doing in order to "get it right". It was also a feature to select a high speed line with stations passed at speed

There was also a strong effect of time of day with early morning less common but afternoon and evening more common.

Depends if the figures include attempted suicide as opposed to just fatalities. A large number of attempts end with severe injuires as opposed to death. Some years back I heard of figures as high as 40% for rate of survival for rail related incidents.
The nature of the situation is that there is a high fatality rate of people being hit by trains, much higher than 60% from memory nearer 90%.
 

221129

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I know that this sounds nasty, but having attended many fatalities, many of them suicides I cannot find any sympathy with those who choose to end their lives on the railway.

G
Why would you say such a horrible thing ?!?! Every life lost is a tradgedy and saying you have no sympathy for these people is extremely low
 

Grantham

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Sometimes I think the railway is used because of it's availability and high likelyhood of success.

Stepping out in front of a bus is less likely to be successful, people survive falls off cliffs, other high places are fenced off, deliberate overdoses are unreliable and can be caught in time. I imagine gun ownership over there is low like over here, too.
 

PFX

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Why would you say such a horrible thing ?!?! Every life lost is a tradgedy and saying you have no sympathy for these people is extremely low
I don't think Greeny said it wasn't a tragedy. If I was attending the clear ups of such events, I'd probably share the same veiw. As I said previously, people who kill themselves are beyond rational thought otherwise they would consider the consequences of their actions on the others affected.

If they were thinking rationally, they would realise that using someone else to kill them, is a wholly selfish act and I don't see how you can reasonably argue to the contrary. It doesn't make it any less selfish because the person killing themself isn't aware of that fact. It's just not something someone in that state of mind considers I'm sure.

I know it sounds cruel and cold but it's a sad truth about the whole thing.
 
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