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It’s true that all RailStaff Awards nominees are workplace heroes. Samaritans Lifesaver Award nominees and winners have even more justification for the title.

In 2019, the last time the awards were run, 133 people were nominated for this category − the only one reaching triple figures. Entries included many inspirational stories of selfless acts of humanity from everyday heroes. People who made lifesaving interventions using their instincts and the power of small talk to help vulnerable people on the railways to safety, potentially saving a life.

All nominees deserve recognition for their extraordinary efforts in playing their part in suicide prevention, but the judges have to decide and, in 2019, Land Sheriffs’ John Dawson and Rob Shannon were jointly awarded the Samaritans Lifesaver Award for their compassion, sensitivity, and confidence to engage in small talk and make an intervention.
While on patrol as one of the company’s ‘safer station teams’, the pair noticed a woman wandering around a station who appeared upset but was not looking to board a train.

They approached her but she was initially reluctant to talk so John and Rob gave her some space. However, she soon re-engaged with them and said she intended to end her life.

John and Rob spoke with her to keep her calm and away from platforms and crowds, as this seemed to be making her agitated. They took her to the station coffee shop for a hot drink to warm her up and chatted away to keep her calm. In all they sat with her for over two hours while waiting for the emergency services, who were extremely stretched on the night, to arrive.

The police were the first to arrive on the scene but their presence caused the woman to become agitated, so withdrew and left her with John and Rob.

A short while later an ambulance arrived. The Land Sheriffs walked the woman to the ambulance, however, as soon as she stepped into the vehicle, she became extremely agitated.

She was let out but, with the assistance of John and Rob, she was convinced to get back in. As the female was still slightly agitated, the duo offered to go with her to the hospital which both she and the paramedics were grateful of.
Chris Gough (pictured left), operations manager, Land Sheriffs, accepted the award on behalf of John and Rob. He said: “Every day is different for John and Rob. They receive Samaritans training and use this to approach vulnerable persons and, on this occasion, they saw a vulnerable person, they approached her and, by doing so, prevented the unthinkable and gave her the help that she needed.”

Tyler LeMay, Land Sheriffs’ managing director, said: “At Land Sheriffs we have been proud of the work our teams do to support the rail industry in suicide prevention. By recognising internally when our staff make interventions, we have instilled a culture of intervention making, so we’re thrilled John and Rob have been recognised by RailStaff for their contribution to this important and life-saving work.”

Steve Tollerton, Samaritans Network Rail training officer at the time, added: “We’re very proud of these guys. The training is so important, but it’s not the training itself, it’s the guys stepping out of their comfort zone and approaching a suicidal person and saving someone’s life. Ultimately, its takes courage and confidence to do that, which is a credit to them.”

Training rail staff to give them the confidence and skills to help someone at risk of suicide is a key part of Samaritans’ work across the rail industry, as part of its suicide prevention programme and Network Rail partnership, which began in 2010. Since then, Samaritans has trained more than 25,000 rail staff, as well as British Transport Police (BTP), in suicide prevention.

Samaritans works closely with the UK rail industry to reduce suicides and support those affected, including award-winning awareness campaigns such as Small Talk Saves Lives. Delivered in partnership with Network Rail and BTP, and supported by the wider rail industry, the campaign reminds people that they already have the skills, and to simply trust their instincts and start a conversation with a question such as ‘hello, what’s the time?’. This can be all it takes to interrupt someone’s suicidal thoughts and start them on their path to recovery.

So, come November, more people and stories like John and Rob’s and their heroic efforts will be acknowledged at the RailStaff Awards.

“Samaritans is so proud to sponsor the RailStaff Awards again this year,” says Olivia Cayley, head of rail programme at Samaritans. “Given the last few challenging years for all, it’s even more important that we recognise those who have used their instincts and taken the lead in talking to somebody needing help and saved a life. We’re thankful to the rail industry for their endless support and we will continue to provide staff with skills and confidence to make a difference. The Lifesaver Award is a chance to thank and celebrate these heroes and hopefully inspire others, showing them anyone could help save a life.”

Samaritans is proud to sponsor the Lifesaver Award and looks forward to welcoming entries for Rail Staff Awards this year. To nominate any of your heroes for a Lifesaver Award, please visit www.railstaffawards.com.

For more information on Samaritans rail suicide prevention programme, or if you’re interested in training, please email [email protected].