Dwell Time met with Northern and British Transport Police to discuss our plans for Issue 2 and to see where we could possibly link up. Northern were very impressed with Issue 1 and the response from staff especially. They said it had been a spark for lots of conversations around mental health and had certainly been a catalyst to increase the dialogue and awareness in general and amongst colleagues and their individual circumstances.
BTP deal with fatalities and people in crisis so their perspective is at the severe end of the mental health spectrum. They gave us a lot of information about what they knew about suicides on the train tracks and checked that we knew about publishing guidance on these issues (we’d read Mind’s version which is the same or similar to the Samaritans they’d mentioned). They offered us interviews with their staff and we suggested the possibility of an artist in residence or workshops pairing artists and their staff to work alongside each other. BTP apologised for talking so bluntly about the issue of suicide because this is what the talk about everyday and not because they don’t care about the individuals. They mentioned that it’s estimated 35 people are severely affected by each suicide from the family to the driver and station staff. 200-300 die on the railways each year in the UK.
Northern also offered us training that their staff undergo (run by Samaritans) how to identify and help people who might be in crisis or need some help (specifically in the context of on train stations and platforms for their staff): How to approach people, what to say and where to seek appropriate help from.
It was really valuable to hear about their perspectives and experiences and quite an odd experiences to be sat in an airless train station room talking about suicide prevention strategies and the role art can play in improving mental health, even if it’s by the tiniest amount. From the sounds of it, the impact amongst the train staff has been impressive and capturing some public perceptions through dialogue in interviews and workshops is our next challenge.