INCREASING suicide rates in Australia are impacting train drivers and other rail workers.
Over the past 10 years to 2017, the nation-wide suicide rate has increased from 2191 per year to 3128, with an unknown number of these occurring on the rails.
“Every incident – be it a fatality, incident causing injury, or near hit can cause severe and lasting trauma to the rail employees involved,” TrackSAFE Foundation executive director Naomi Frauenfelder said.
TrackSAFE Foundation is a harm-prevention charity that focuses on reducing incidents resulting from suicide, reckless behaviour and human error.
“Hundreds of people are affected in a very real way when an incident occurs on the rail network,” Ms Frauenfelder said.
“One person’s death on the railways affects dozens and dozens of lives – families, friends, neighbours, colleagues, and then there’s the train driver or front-line worker and potentially their families, friends, neighbours, colleagues.”
Ms Frauenfelder said it was a difficult problem to address.
“We are up against an incredibly complex and nuanced human problem; suicide rates have been increasing in Australia in the past few years,” she said.
“Tragically, most train drivers will witness an incident on the network in the course of their career.
“Sadly, in many cases they never return to work after witnessing these events.”
TrackSAFE said that the foundation had taken a two-pronged approach, providing initiatives for rail employees who experienced trauma, as well as support options for anyone in the industry struggling with mental health.
“As the rail industry is one where staff sometimes witness tragic incidents, we know the importance of looking out for the people around us who might be struggling, and of taking the opportunity to have meaningful conversations,” Ms Frauenfelder said.
“To this end, the rail industry celebrates its own, industry specific R U OK? Day in April each year, reaching over 50,000 rail workers.
“In addition to rail workers having access to Employee Assistance Programs through their organisations, TrackSAFE provides a number of national trauma support initiatives and resources, including Mental Health First Aid Training for the rail industry, trauma training and a specially designed trauma-support app called RailRes.”
The foundation has also teamed up with Lifeline, and together the organisations aim to address suicide on the rails and improve understanding of community needs in order to encourage more people to seek help.
“TrackSAFE and Lifeline also launched Pause.Call.Be Heard, a national billboard campaign, to promote help-seeking,” Ms Frauenfelder said.
“The campaign has been live in Victoria the past 12 months. The campaign is displayed across billboards, posters, at level crossings and across supporting infrastructure on the Victorian rail network.
“The campaign at rail stations acts as an important reminder to everyone to take a moment, pause, and call Lifeline if in need.”
If you or someone you know needs to talk, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
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