Reducing railway suicide: An open-systems approach

Railway suicide is a tragic, yet far too frequent occurrence on public rail networks globally. This report presents the findings of a series of research studies undertaken to aid in the prevention of railway suicide.

While other teams in this program of research are examining the boundaries of automated suicide risk detection and response strategies, this report presents the findings of four complementary studies that sought to develop better organisational and community capabilities in response to railway suicide risk, including:

  1. how the operational environment contributes to the challenge of an effective organizational response;
  2. the efficacy of an evidence-based training intervention for gatekeepers and bystanders;
  3. communication strategies to persuade the general public to undertake suicide prevention training; and
  4. calculating the cost-benefit of interventions for reducing railway suicide.

Drawing on an open-systems approach to capture the dynamic and unpredictable nature of suicide events, the first project used a service design methodology to show how different stakeholders interacted to impact the identification and response to suicide risk.

The second project developed and tested a pilot training intervention for frontline rail staff (gatekeepers) and the general public (bystanders), showing the importance of creating a focus on ends (empathy) as a precursor to means (self-efficacy).

The third project then focused on strategies for engaging the general public via marketing communications. Using a taxonomy for public health promotion, the project evaluated the efficacy of different framing strategies for posters and a campaign website.

The final project presented a tool that could be customised to evaluate the cost-benefit of investments in suicide prevention interventions.

Building on these key findings, 17 recommendations are presented to guide the research partners on how best to proceed.

The report from this project is available here.

This research was part of an ARC Linkage Project supported by Sydney Trains and the TrackSAFE Foundation and completed in December 2022. It was led by Professor Byron Keating at Queensland University of Technology.

Associated research that examined the role of bystanders in preventing suicides is available here.

A briefing on this project was provided to the rail industry and interested stakeholders in November 2021. A copy of this briefing is available here.

9 February 2023