Preventing suicide on the Australian rail network – Research briefing 3 Nov 2021

TrackSAFE currently supports two suicide prevention research projects of relevance to the Australian rail industry. A briefing was provided on both projects on 3 November 2021. A recording of the briefing and slides are available below.

Suicides are the starkest indicator of the mental health of the nation.  Suicides in public places warrant particular attention because these sites can develop reputations as ‘suicide hotspots’.  As many as 30% of Australia’s 3,000+ annual suicides may occur in public places and at least 120 of these public places may be regarded as suicide hotspots.  In the case of suicide in public places, four main types of interventions have been proposed, all of which require the health sector to work in concert with other sectors.

These are:
• Restricting access to means (e.g., by constructing barriers such as railway fencing);
• Encouraging help-seeking (e.g., by installing phones that link directly to crisis lines and/or by erecting signs with messages of hope and crisis line numbers);
• Increasing the likelihood of intervention by a third party (e.g., by installing CCTV cameras at railway stations); and
• Encouraging responsible media reporting of suicides at these sites.

Project aims
To substantially expand the evidence base on effective interventions in public places that are or may become suicide hotspots, and provide robust, practical advice to policy-makers and industry representatives about how to deal with these sites.

Preliminary results from several studies are presented:
• Railway suicide in Australia: patterns and identification of “suicide hotspots”
• Preliminary analysis of the effect of removal of level crossings on subsequent railway suicides in Victoria
• Initial effect of installing railway fencing on subsequent railway suicides in Victoria
• The effect of structural intervention at one Victorian bridge on jumping suicides
• The cost-effectiveness of installing barriers at bridge and cliff sites for suicide prevention
• Preliminary analysis of suicides at sites where Lifeline signs have been installed

• Lived experience perspectives on signs designed to encourage help seeking at Australian “suicide hotspots”.

This National Health and Medical Research Council Partnership Project is led by the University of Melbourne with TrackSAFE, Victorian Department of Transport, Coroners Court of Victoria, AustROADS, Everymind and Roses in the Ocean as project partners.

Railway suicide has a devastating impact on victims and their families, station staff, train drivers, emergency workers, and bystanders. This study employed a range of strategies to improve detection and response to railway suicide. Drawing on open-systems theory, the key aims of this project are to: (1) develop two complementary information systems for detection and reporting of suicide risk based on CCTV data; (2) investigate different interventions to influence the behaviour of bystanders; and (3) contribute to national and international discussions regarding the reduction of railway suicide.

The project is in the final year. The focus of this last 12 months is on finalising recommendations related to the risk detection system, and validating the CARE (conscious, attentive, responsible, and engaged) framework for bystander intervention. This validation will involve development and testing of training modules, posters and communication interventions targeting each of the areas of the CARE framework.

Results to be presented

  • Recommendations for use of CCTV for suicide risk detection
  • Recommendations for structuring incident reporting systems
  • Co-design of a decision support system for risk reporting
  • Validation and refinement of a video-based risk detection scale
  • Analysis of bystander interventions (Sydney Trains)
  • Systematic review of bystander communication interventions in public places
  • Taxonomy and pattern language for public health communications
  • Conceptual development and testing of the CARE framework for bystander intervention
  • Cost-benefit framework to aid in the preparation a business cases for suicide related interventions

This is a Australian Research Council Linkage project with Queensland University of Technology, Sydney Trains and the TrackSAFE Foundation being the project partners.