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The Australian rail industry doing what it can to address suicide issue

Published May 06, 2016

Naomi FrauenfelderComing off the back of the new reports released from the ABS indicating suicide as the leading cause of premature deaths in Australia, the TrackSAFE Foundation joins other voices in the space calling on governments to respond to the issue as a national crisis.

As a harm prevention charity, we at the TrackSAFE Foundation continuously work to reduce fatalities specifically on our rail network, while providing best practice trauma support for rail employees.

Annually there are around 150 fatalities resulting from rail suicide on our network. This has a profound and lasting impact on train drivers and other rail employees impacted as well as the greater community. 

With new ABS statistics indicating the number of people taking their own lives has reached a decade-high in Australia, the rail industry is showing deep concern and believes federal government needs to give the issue its full attention. Both political parties are required to take action and demonstrate that this is an issue that the government takes seriously, as it affects everyone.

Too many Australians are dying premature deaths as a result of suicide. And on the other side of the coin, stigma is interfering with mental health care. I find myself lamenting the fact that despite centuries of learning about the brain, mental illness is still perceived as an indulgence and sign of weakness. How is it that talking to people and reaching out is embarrassing rather than critical?

When it comes to rail suicide, people don’t often think about that fact that this form of suicide is unique; it is one of the only methods that directly engages another person to undertake the actual act – the train driver.

The TrackSAFE Foundation was established by the rail industry, for the rail industry to address this serious issue and the affect these incidents have on rail employees.

The Australian rail industry takes a proactive approach to the emotional wellbeing of its 110,000 employees. Our nation’s rail organisations –be it freight and passenger operators, track owners, manufactures or suppliers– all take great care in creating a better workplace for rail employees. This culture within rail organisations comes from the top, as TrackSAFE’s Board of Directors consists of Chief Executives and senior rail personnel from across Australia’s rail operations.

Through the TrackSAFE Foundation, we partner with mental health organisations, (such as Lifeline, beyondblue, R U OK? and The Black Dog Institute) to provide rail organisations with the opportunities for staff to engage in conversations about their emotional status, as well as awareness of suicide.

Together we work to give rail staff the confidence and capacity to talk about life’s ups and downs and help them feel safe and supported whilst at work. Imagine if the same levels of concern from senior executives was duplicated across all Australian industries and professions.

It’s vital the nation responds to these alarming new suicide statistics and helps to stop deaths which are 100 per cent preventable. This effort involves everyone, we as a society need to take the time to learn about suicide, recognise the signs, identify if potential signs are around us at home or at work and help make sure that all Australians know that there is hope and ways to get and to give help.

* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

By Naomi Frauenfelder, Executive Director of the TrackSAFE Foundation