Middlesex academic leads study to help prevent suicide attempts

08/04/2019
MDX academics launch survey to develop a better understanding of how to support people in crisis and prevent suicide attempts

Credit: Matheus GuimarĂ£es, CCBYNC4.0

Associate Professor of Psychology Lisa Marzano, based at the Faculty of Science and Technology at Middlesex University, is appealing to the public to take part in an online survey to help her research team investigate how bystanders react when they come into contact with people on the railways and other public locations who are in distress and/or suicidal.

The research team is particularly keen to hear from people who have experienced emotional distress and those who have stepped in to help or wanted to but did not know what to do.

The research was commissioned by the Samaritans on behalf of the rail industry as part of their suicide reduction and prevention work. There is around one suicide on Britain’s railways every 30 hours. The emotional costs to the individual’s family, friends, fellow commuters and transport staff are immeasurable.

Marzano’s previous research investigated what influences and deters people from taking their lives on railways. It spearheaded the rail industry’s ‘Small Talk Saves Lives’ campaign urging commuters to start a conversation with a person in distress in order to interrupt their suicidal thoughts.

"Our previous research suggested that a simple conversation can help save someone’s life. Indeed, for every life lost on Britain’s railways, at least six appear to be saved by those around them. We’re now going a step further and want to find out why some people intervene, what prevents others from doing so, and, above all, what makes for a safe, effective, ‘life-saving’ intervention."
Associate Professor Lisa Marzano, Middlesex University

Commenting on the survey launched today, Associate Professor Marzano said:

“Our previous research suggested that a simple conversation can help save someone’s life. Indeed, for every life lost on Britain’s railways, at least six appear to be saved by those around them. We’re now going a step further and want to find out why some people intervene, what prevents others from doing so, and, above all, what makes for a safe, effective, ‘life-saving’ intervention.

"Ideally when we analyse our survey results we’ll be in a position to produce a guide to help commuters and the general public know what to do in a crisis situation. In order to do this we need as many people as possible to get involved. It’s really important that we get responses from all age groups over 16 and from across the UK to ensure our research represents a wide range of experiences. Suicide is preventable, and we can all play a role in that.”

All responses to the study are completely anonymous and confidential.

Ian Stevens MBE, Rail Industry Spokesman for Suicide Prevention, added:

“The railway is at the heart of most communities in this country and knowing how suicide impacts on them, it makes sense for the industry to contribute to a better understanding of how they can be prevented and how those in crisis can be supported.

"Those in the railway community suffer too every time a fatality occurs on the network. For example, train drivers become traumatised and some never return to work as a result of their experiences. For their sake as well, research of this nature is important to help relieve the anxiety many have when they enter a driving cab and wonder whether they’ll return home in the same state of mind as when they left.”

A Samaritans spokesperson said: “More research is needed to determine why people intervene when they notice someone is distressed, and the difference such interventions can make. A simple question can be enough to interrupt suicidal thoughts and save a life, as the Small Talk Saves Lives campaign demonstrated.

“As part of this new research, we also want to hear from people who have been suicidal, so that, by asking people to share their experiences through an online survey, we can determine the best support to put in place to help them in future.”

Find out more about studying Psychology at Middlesex

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