The Samaritans Lifesaver Award was again one of the standout categories at the RailStaff Awards, as two Land Sheriffs officers were recognised for making a lifesaving intervention in West Sussex earlier this year.
Tek Malla and Purna Gurung took home this year’s award for approaching a potentially suicidal man at West Worthing station and preventing him from taking his own life. Arriving at the station, the two men put themselves between the man and the railway, engaging him in conversation before BTP officers arrived.
After the incident, in an e-mail addressed to Tek and Purna, the man thanked the pair for saving his life.
Above and beyond
Land Sheriffs’ managing director, Tyler LeMay, said he was very proud of his team for the seven nominations they received in the Lifesaver category and had particular praise for Tek and Purna. He added, ‘For me it was the way in which they dealt with the individual in a difficult situation – it was above and beyond what you would expect.’
Category sponsor Samaritans was represented by Ola Rzepczynska, project manager of the suicide prevention programme. She said, ‘They went on our Samaritans training course and put their skills, as well as good judgment and instinct, into practice and went on to save someone’s life.
‘We believe in taking the time to identify, stop and talk to somebody and look after them and make sure they are okay.
‘Conversation is a big part of training, as well as spotting the signs and giving them the confidence too.
‘I think it’s quite British, we don’t want to intervene, but actually if we take the time just to ask if someone’s okay, 99.99 per cent of the time they will say they’re fine. The odd time they might say they’re not okay, but that starts a conversation and the process of them actually releasing the pressure off their mind, helping them and getting them on to the path of recovery.’
More than 16,000 members of railway staff have received training from Samaritans since the start of a joint programme between the industry and the emotional support service in 2010. There were 273 suicides or suspected suicides on the railway between 2016/17 and more than 1,500 interventions reported during that period. A huge number of nominations were submitted in the category again this year, representing the scale of the challenge still facing the industry but also the positive influence the programme is having.
Mark Carne, Network Rail’s chief executive, said, ‘In recent years the rail industry has made significant strides with its partners in preventing suicides on the railway. In the last two years, we have seen 47 fewer people take their own lives on our rail network which is a sobering thought. Network Rail is proud of the work the industry’s people do in preventing suicides and helping some of the most vulnerable in our society.’
Highly commended: Samaritans Lifesaver Award – James Graysmark, London Midland, and Esther Burns, Virgin Trains West Coast.