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Trauma Support Training – dealing with distress on the railway

The distress and upset which can follow a fatality on the railway can have a profound effect on those who drive the trains and work on the infrastructure. They may feel responsbile and find it difficult to return to work. Sometimes, however, trauma isn’t so clear and if not approached properly can lead to long-term problems for individuals and the businesses they work for.

Following an incident, Samaritans volunteers often attend the scene to offer emotional support to station staff. It’s a valuable service, but the upset these events can cause sometimes might not manifest itself until days or weeks later.

Network Rail and the Samaritans, with input from train drivers’ union ASLEF, have developed the Trauma Support Training (TST) course to try and address this issue and teach individuals to recognise if a colleague is suffering from some kind of trauma and help them to come to terms with it. The course is one of several initiatives developed by Network Rail and Samaritans. The partnership, which was formed in 2010, is perhaps better known for its Managing Suicidal Contacts course which aims to give rail staff the tools to approach and counsel distressed members of the public they encounter on the network.

Network Rail training officer, Rob Christopher, a member of the 2014 RailStaff Awards Training Team of the Year, explains how the Network Rail and Samaritans’ TST programme is trying to help the industry better manage this challenge.shutterstock_179912351

What are some of the signs that someone is suffering from trauma?

When someone has been exposed to a traumatic event, at work or elsewhere there are a number of symptoms they may experience. It’s important to note, however, that this is not an exhaustive list and by no means everyone will experience all of these. In some cases people will show no signs at all, either because they feel they will be thought less of than if they were to show them or because they have been able to rationalise what has happened.

Some signs to look out for include:

  • Having trouble functioning at home or at work – keeping up with day-to- day tasks, changes to time keeping, loss of interest and motivation;
  • Suffering from severe fear, anxiety or depression – not wanting to leave the house, not taking care of appearance;
  • Unable to maintain relationships – tension, arguments etc both at work and at home;
  • Experiencing terrifying memories, nightmares or flashbacks – reliving the moment, seeing it happen from a different angle or perspective;
  • Avoiding more and more things that remind you of it – not wanting to pass through the location of an incident, returning to a station;
  • Using alcohol or drugs to feel better – often trying to mask the memory of the incident and the feelings being experienced.

What is the Trauma Support Training (TST) course?

In collaboration with ASLEF and the rail industry, Samaritans has developed and delivers a trauma support course relevant for all managers of people, working within the rail industry. Train drivers and driver managers have contributed to the course. However, it is appropriate for anyone who may be involved with managing people involved in traumatic rail incidents.

Having trained over 1,000 rail personnel and British Transport Police (BTP) officers to date, the course receives an average feedback score of 4.8 out of 5.

What does the TST course involve?

shutterstock_179912351During the course, we take a look at an account from a driver who was affected by an incident in which a young woman took her own life in front
of the train he was driving. We look at his experience and see what we can learn about how to support someone who has experienced a traumatic incident.

One important factor we focus on is how everyone responds to trauma slightly differently and that the support we all require can also be different. We take some time to look at how different personality types appreciate different types of contact from a manager/ supervisor/TU rep and why.

At every stage the emphasis is on understanding the person being supported and the support that is appropriate for them.

Do you have any recommendations for how companies can better support individuals suffering from trauma?

The crucial point is that every person affected by trauma will respond in a way that is unique to them. Therefore there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Some find that returning to work fairly soon can be helpful, others need more time to come to terms with what has happened – it’s only by talking to the person affected and understanding their needs that the right support can be provided.

For many a talking therapy can be very helpful, this can be arranged through the Employee Assistance programme provided by their employer. In some cases other forms of therapy, such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) may be needed to help someone process what they have experienced.

For further info on the course content and objectives, and to express an interest on booking yourself on a course, please e-mail: railcompanies@ samaritans.org

Images: shutterstock.com


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