Samaritans volunteers at Ilford station in bid to tackle railway suicides

A unique project aiming to tackle suicide on the railways in Ilford has been launched.

The Samaritans have volunteers on hand at Ilford station in Cranbrook Road to provide support to anyone who needs a person to talk to.

The volunteers, from the charity’s Ilford branch in Mildmay Road, will also be there to support staff who have witnessed someone attempting to commit suicide.

Steve Starr, who has volunteered with the Samaritans for 23 years, said: “I’ve spoken to quite a few station staff that have seen that [suicide] and it’s quite horrendous for them.

“Some people have seen more than one of them. It must be something that lives with you all your life.”

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Mr Starr, 76, works as an outreach officer for Network Rail and says a suicide affects British Transport Police, station staff and, particularly, train drivers.

“You can imagine at that speed they cannot stop and it’s about half a mile before the train can stop,” said Mr Starr. “Some of them never drive again. There are some drivers who it’s happened to more than once.”

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Staff at train stations can also call the Samaritans if they see someone who appears to be at risk of commiting suicide.

Mr Starr, of Gants Hill, said: “We are there for people if they want to talk to us. If there’s anyone in distress or if anybody is contemplating suicide, they sometimes stay on the platform too long or hang back building up courage.”

Between January 2011 to the end of July this year there were seven fatalities at four Redbridge stations: Ilford; Seven Kings, in High Road, Seven Kings; Goodmayes, in Goodmayes Road, Goodmayes and Chadwell Heath, in Station Road, Chadwell Heath.

Three of these fatalities were at Ilford station.

About 15 volunteers in green tabards will be manning the station in shifts during the morning and evening rush hours over the Olympic Games period.

The Samaritans provide a non-judgmental listening ear to anyone experiencing emotional distress. If you would like someone to talk to, or to help as a volunteer, call 020 8553 9900 or 08567 909 090.

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