Commuters are being encouraged to take part in a new suicide prevention campaign to lower the number of deaths on railways.

British Transport Police say 237 people took their own lives on the rail lines last year – but for every death, six more lives were saved through interventions.

They have joined forces with the Samaritans and the rail industry, including Network Rail, to launch Small Talk Saves Lives to give travellers the confidence to act if they notice vulnerable people on or around the rail network.

By highlighting that suicidal thoughts can be temporary and often interrupted with a simple question, the campaign aims to give the public the tools to spot a potentially suicidal person help save a life.

The campaign draws on insights from successful interventions made by some of the 16,000 rail staff and British Transport Police officers who have been trained by Samaritans in suicide prevention.

Michael Budd, has worked on the railways for 20 years and has saved many lives on the tracks.

Michael Budd has saved many lives on the railways
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Michael Budd has saved many lives on the railways

He told Sky News: “More and more we are dealing with mental health issues and people who are trying to take their own life.

“We probably get two or three a month, if not more in the Wessex area alone and I’ve personally intervened in the past year seven or eight times.”

“I would encourage anyone if they see somebody looking a little bit furtive, they’ve been there too long maybe, they’re looking a bit dishevelled to approach them.

“The important thing is when you’re actually speaking to somebody is not to ask leading questions, ask open questions. Don’t say you know how they feel, because you can’t possibly know how they feel.

Commuters at a railway station in London
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Commuters are being asked to engage with people they fear are suicidal

While there is no single sign or combination of behaviours that mean a person is suicidal, the advice to the public is that if something doesn’t feel right – act.

Warning signs to look out for include a person standing alone and isolated, looking distant or withdrawn, staying on the platform a long time without boarding a train or displaying something out of the ordinary in terms of behaviour or appearance.

Different courses of action are suggested, depending on the situation and the response. They range from approaching the person and asking them a question to distract them from their thoughts, or alerting a member of rail staff or calling the police.

The hope is that by appealing to members of the public, the number of life-saving interventions being made across Britain will increase further.

Ian Stevens from Network Rail, who manages the suicide prevention programme on behalf of the rail industry, said: “Given that nearly five million journeys are made by train every day, we are asking for passengers to work alongside our staff as the eyes and ears of the railway, helping us to keep everybody safe.

“If it were your loved one, a daughter or son, husband or wife who was going through an emotional crisis, wouldn’t you hope that somebody took the time to stop and ask if they were OK?

“Even if in doubt, you can always report concerns to a member of staff or a police officer, but please act if your instinct is telling you that something is wrong.”

:: Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK.