South East Wales

Samaritans aim to cut suicides on railways in Wales

Depressed man
Image caption Suicide rates in Wales have risen 30% in two years to the highest level since 2004

Volunteers from Samaritans are hoping to reduce the numbers of suicides on Welsh railways by visiting stations to raise awareness of help available.

The charity says the number of suicides in general is rising, with anecdotal evidence that people are concerned about jobs and benefit changes.

Leaflets will be given to passengers at south Wales stations to encourage them to call the charity if they need help.

On average, one person a day tries to take their life on the UK's railways.

The volunteers from Samaritans' Cardiff branch - which also covers the south Wales valleys - decided to "reach out to the community" because they said they were getting more calls for help.

It is part of a wider national campaign being run by the charity and Network Rail, launched in 2010, to reduce suicide on the UK's railways by 20% in five years.

It says the suicides not only affect the family and friends of the person who dies, they also have wider consequences for drivers, station staff, passengers, members of the public who witness the incidents and those who rely on the train network.

Samaritans have just visited Cardiff Central station and hope to visit other stations in south Wales once a month.

Helen Smith, director of Samaritans' Cardiff branch, said: "We want to reach out to people and to raise awareness that we are here for them 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"We were recently at Llanishen station in Cardiff following a fatality there and the feedback we had was that people appreciated our presence. So we feel there's a need for something like this."

Suicide rates in Wales have risen 30% in two years to the highest level since 2004 and are higher than in England.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that in 2011, 341 people in Wales took their own lives, up from 258 in 2009.

It is not known how many of these committed suicide on the railways.

But Samaritans said of around 6,000 suicides in the UK last year, 4% - about 240 - were committed on railway tracks.

Ms Smith said that anecdotally, volunteers had noticed more calls from people worried about their jobs and changes to benefits.

"With the economic climate, the expectation is there's a need for greater support," she added.

"It's a very difficult time for people."

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