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Prevention of metropolitan and railway suicide 

Prevention of metropolitan and railway suicide
Prevention of metropolitan and railway suicide

Karl-Heinz Ladwig

, Esther Ruf

, Jens Baumert

, and Natalia Erazo

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date: 25 June 2022

Railway suicides account for a minority of <10 per cent of all suicides, although they are considered a major public health issue because of their tremendous consequences on functioning of the transportation system and their deteriorating impact on the mental health of staff and bystanders. Railway suicide is a particularly violent method, and case fatality is 90 per cent of all attempts. However, case fatality in metro systems of >60 per cent are rare. More men than women choose the track as a means of suicide with a trend towards a balanced distribution in metro systems. Victims are predominately young with a median age stratum in the range of 25–34 years. For men, a prevalence peak in April and a low in December has been observed. The weekly distribution shows a peak at the beginning of the week and a low on weekends. Railway suicide behaviour patterns include jumping, lying and wandering, some individuals present deviant behaviour prodromal to the attempt. Attractiveness of the method derives from high levels of opportunity and low levels of self-perceived costs.

Prevention may rely on a package of different structural and communicative tools. Inhibiting access to the track, by providing barriers at places of advanced risk and surveillance systems, are among structural means. Inhibiting media coverage and education of gatekeepers to increase awareness and skilfulness in contact with potentially vulnerable subjects on station platforms are among communicative tools. Railway suicide prevention is a realistic option: however, enhancement of research in this field is urgently needed.

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