Experts to make smart map of railway suicide hot spots

first_imgWe need to move away from thinking that fences are the be-all and end-allIan Stevens, head of the Suicide Prevention Programme Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Currently, most suicide research is dominated by psychologists, who attempt to explain the phenomenon at an individual level, or by sociologists, who strive for societal explanations.Network Rail’s new strategy, however, aims to profile communities near known high-risk locations and then actively look for other towns and villages that fit the model.Ian Stevens, who runs the organisation’s Suicide Prevention Programme, said: “We need to move away from thinking that fences are the be-all and end-all.“All the prevention measures we could possibly have are in place at these stations, but unfortunately people still come and take their own life.“We need to understand the communities around these spots.”In 2015-16, 252 people took their own lives, or were suspected of having done so, on the railway network. This was 35 fewer than the previous year.On average, each incident causes 2,000 minutes of train delays and drivers involved in suicides typically lose 29 working days as they recover.The team has been trialling its methods at two locations with a high rate of suicide.In December, its remit will be expanded to a further four or five, with a view to expanding further in the coming months.Dr Robin Pharoah, the lead anthropologist, said his first task in any given community was to encourage suicide survivors to re-live their experience to find out what features attracted them to the nearby railway.“We’re going in and looking for clues,” he said.“The only thing we know in advance is that we don’t know what it is that we will find interesting.”Mr Stevens said that the data accumulated by Network Rail, which is updated daily, meant that staff were sometimes identifying areas with a high risk of suicide before local authorities, health services or charities.“If local authorities don’t know there is a flow of people coming to the railway they cannot help,” he said. “We’re trying to help paint a picture.”center_img A team of anthropologists has been hired to try to prevent suicides at sensitive locations on the railways where disruptions can cause gridlock.Network Rail has recruited the academics to study the communities around 32 such places.The team will use on-the-ground investigative procedures to understand what it is about “cluster” locations that attracts suicide attempts, meaning preventative measures like fences and police patrols can be bolstered.Their data is also intended to help create a smart map similar to those used by consumer analysts to try to predict where future suicide attempts will come from.last_img read more

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