James Kenealey mental health awareness
A Network Rail track operative became a lifesaver as he used quick and calm thinking to stop trains on a London Underground track after a potentially suicidal member of the public gained access to the line.
Shortly after midnight on Monday 20th July, Network Rail contractor Michael Harris was on duty in East Putney to cover his isolation duties. As he prepared for his shift and dressed in his PPE, he noticed an Indian man walking with what appeared to be a bottle of alcohol. Around 10 minutes later, he heard a London Underground train blast its horn frantically and eventually come to a complete stop. It was then he noticed that the man he had seen earlier had gained access to the line and was walking in the restricted and dangerous area.
Mr Harris immediately phoned the British Transport Police and ensured that services would be suspended along that stretch of the line while he dealt with the issue. By this point, the man had staggered and fallen and was lying around a foot away from the active line. Checking that the man wasn’t holding any weapons or anything that could pose an immediate threat, he approached him and calmly attempted to get him to move away from the line. Mr Harris reported that the man appeared to be suffering a mental health crisis and was saying things that suggested he was of a suicidal frame of mind.
Mr Harris took hold of the gentleman and attempted to get him to move away from the active line but was met with resistance, and he attempted to lunge forwards onto the active line. Fortunately, Mr Harris was able to restrain him and prevent him from doing so and pulled him away from the restricted area and managed to secure him in an area outside of the gates.
During this time, the British Transport Police remained on the phone. After another brief struggle, the man calmed down but remained in a suicidal frame of mind. The driver of the London Underground train that had been forced to stop came to check on the situation and shortly afterwards the police arrived to handcuff the man for his own safety and detained him. Mr Harris made a statement and then returned to work for the rest of his shift.
After being approached by Network Rail, Vital Human Resources, part of the Morson Group, introduced trespass and vandalism patrollers to address the growing cases of disruption and safety threats on various rail routes across the UK. Travelling in pairs, the trained patrollers respond to issues surrounding unauthorised track access and help keep both rail passengers and other members of the public safe. In the following 18 months after their introduction, there was a 53% reduction in suicides within the Thameslink area as the patrollers worked with the British Transport Police throughout the routes.
Vital director Gary Hardaker said at the time:
"In a single year, Vital patrollers in the Thameslink area spent 157, 680 hours patrolling the most vulnerable locations. This increase in vigilant presence resulted in over 50 lifesaving interventions along the Thameslink lines with one patroller, Iman Masoud, performing a total of three separate interventions during this time. He was recognised with inclusion in an even on suicide prevention in Parliament."