A British rail worker, trained to help persons at risk of suicide on the line, has saved 29 lives since 2015, thanks to his aptitude for talking and listening.
In 2015, Rizwan Javed, 30—a communications and stakeholder manager for the MTR Elizabeth Line at West London’s Ealing Broadway station—enrolled in Samaritans’ Managing Suicidal Contacts training. The course equips staff with the skills needed to deescalate potential suicide situations.
Despite his initial apprehensions of putting his knowledge into practice, Javed now knows the training has helped him help others.
“The first time I was put in a situation where I was dealing with a vulnerable person it was nerve-wracking,” he told MyLondon. “Every aspect of the training was being implemented in real life, and I was concerned.
“Am I going to say the right thing?” he wondered. “Am I going to do the right thing? Am I going to be able to engage with this person?”
Receiving training so early in his career gave him the situational awareness to identify vulnerable persons and the confidence to approach them. He said “distressed facial expressions” and commuters “removing their clothing” are two major red flags when it comes to spotting someone in crisis.
Not only has Javed saved 29 people from taking their own lives in and around his West London station, his interactions with people in need have profoundly impacted him as well.
Javed recalls a young woman looking distressed during a night shift. The rail worker called the signalmen and had a line block put in place before he ran over to distract her.
“It wasn’t easy initially, it was hard to engage,” Javed recalled. “She had various thoughts in her head, but eventually I talked her into a place of safety.”
After speaking to the woman for an hour, he called the British Transport Police for support. The woman’s family was called, and loved ones arrived to ensure her safety.
A week later, she returned to the station.
“I noticed her from a distance and she ran over and said ‘Thank you’ to me, just for being there that night,” he recalled. “It meant the world to me that she was okay and doing well for herself.”
In 2018, Javed earned the Samaritans Lifesaver Award for his efforts. He said the award symbolized not only his own dedication but also that of his colleagues.
“It reminds me I can do better, it doesn’t stop here, the journey continues,” he said.
The journey has indeed continued—for Javed feels his own British Asian community is less open to discussing mental health matters than other groups. He’s educated and encouraged family and friends to reach out, particularly during the time of the pandemic.
“It is okay not to be okay,” he impresses.
Samaritans, in partnership with Network Rail, has trained 22,000 rail staff and British Transport Police officers to help prevent suicide on the rail line.
“It’s given me a positive mindset,” he said. “I want to continue to make a difference in my life, and spread awareness so others can do the same.”