Intervention skills inspiration for Preston councillors

Councillors discussed prevention strategies this week at the town hall
Councillors discussed prevention strategies this week at the town hall
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Equipping staff at key locations with life-saving intervention skills may form part of new plans to tackle Preston’s high suicide rate.

The city was branded a suicide capital last year with local figures high above the national average.

As a result, councillors have been tasked with drafting a new prevention strategy.

They heard from Network Rail (NR) bosses this week and were told interventions on the rail network are up 40 per cent due in part to a wide-ranging training programme run alongside the Samaritans.

The council’s task and finish group expressed interest in tapping in to NR’s approach.

Officers Caroline Kingston and Richard Godwin said the number of suicides on the railways had reduced from 253 to 237 last year.

A total of nine interventions had taken place in Preston over the last two years, Mr Godwin told the elected members.

He added: “The rail industry cannot control the suicide risk but we can influence it. Suicide is everyone’s business, we can’t work in isolation. We need to work together.”

Ms Kingston outlined the trauma experienced by rail staff - drivers in particular - after witnessing incidents of suicide.

And explained how a change in outlook seven years ago is now reaping dividends in terms of prevention.

She said: “Back in 2010, if you’d asked the rail industry they would say for people don’t intervene. So the last few years has been changing that attitude and that culture.”

The group also heard from Preston docks manager Ian Smith and discussed the possibility of installing more CCTV cameras around the site, which would link into the city’s central watch system.

The council’s task and finish group for suicides in Preston was set up in response to the city’s above the national average rates.

According to the latest public health profile for Preston, the rate stands at 16.8 per 100,000 of the population, the national average is 10.1.

The group of councillors will make recommendations to local authority bosses following a series of interviews and meetings.

Coun Drew Gale, group chair, said this week’s meeting would influence the recommendations. He added: “We want to produce something tangible and real that can contribute to saving people’s lives.”