More than 200 people commit suicide on the railways every year - how do you stop them?

Nick Johnson
Volante Research

Nicola Peckett
Samaritans

BACKGROUND

The World Health organisation estimates that around 1 million people worldwide die by suicide every year. In the UK, 6,000 people take their own lives every year, and 4,000 of them are men.

Of those 6,000, more than 200 choose to kill themselves on the railways. Contrary to popular belief, most do not jump off a platform. In fact 63% chose to die on what is known as 'open track', miles from the nearest station. No one knows what the real reasons for choosing these locations, perhaps it is to ensure they aren't talked out of it at the last minute, perhaps also because the trains will be travelling at high speed so death is more guaranteed.

Thanks to painstaking work by Samaritans, Network Rail and the British Transport Police, we know a little bit about the sort of people who choose to kill themselves in this way: They tend to be men. 90% are white. There is a peak around 30-50years of age. Only 21% were in full-time employment. They worked mainly in heavy manual jobs. 42% had a history of mental health issues.