Intervening to prevent suicide at railway locations: findings from a qualitative study with front-line staff and rail commuters

Katsampa, Dafni, Mackenzie, Jay-Marie, Crivatu, Ioana and Marzano, Lisa ORCID logoORCID: (2022) Intervening to prevent suicide at railway locations: findings from a qualitative study with front-line staff and rail commuters. BJPsych Open, 8 (2) , e62. pp. 1-7. ISSN 2056-4724 [Article] (doi:10.1192/bjo.2022.27)

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Background: For every suicide on the British Railway Network, at least six potential attempts are interrupted by frontline staff or rail commuters. However, the factors which maximise - or hinder - the likelihood and effectiveness of such interventions are poorly understood.
Aims: The aim of the current study was to shed light on the experience of intervening to prevent a suicide at a railway location, including i) how people intervene, ii) why, and iii) their feelings and reflections in the aftermath.
Methods: In-depth interviews were carried out with rail commuters (n=11) and frontline railway staff (n=10) who had intervened to stop a suicide by train. Data were analysed thematically.
Results: Participants had intervened to prevent suicide in several ways, both from afar (e.g., by calling a member of staff) and more directly (verbally or non-verbally), in some cases with no prior training or experience in suicide prevention, and often as a “quick, gut reaction” given the limited time to intervene. In more ‘reasoned’ interventions, poor confidence and concerns around safety were the greatest barriers to action. Although often privy to their final outcome, most participants reflected positively on their intervention/s, stressing the importance of training and teamwork, as well as small talk and non-judgemental listening.
Conclusions: Suicides in railway environments can present bystanders with little time to intervene. Potential interveners should therefore be resourced as best as possible through clear infrastructure help/emergency points, visibility of station staff, and training for gatekeepers.

Item Type: Article
Keywords (uncontrolled): Suicide; qualitative research; bystander interventions; railways; public interventions
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > Psychology
Item ID: 34709
Notes on copyright: Copyright and usage
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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Depositing User: Lisa Marzano
Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2022 09:59
Last Modified: 05 Oct 2022 13:21

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