Of the 20 trophies presented at the RailStaff Awards there is one that is more emotionally charged than all the others.
The Lifesaver Award is a category that is inundated with stories of rail staff stepping out of their comfort zone to help in someone’s time of need.
These selfless acts of humanity aren’t listed in the job descriptions of these everyday heroes, but they undertake them anyway.
Customer service experience manager Rizwan Javed, of MTR Crossrail, made 25 life-saving interventions in three years, repeated feats of courage and compassion that saw him presented with the 2018 Lifesaver Award.
Jason Alexandre, managing suicidal contacts trainer at category sponsor Samaritans, said the award was a great recognition of Rizwan, who represents the group of people that made over 2,000 life-saving interventions in 2018/19.
“I’ve spoken to Rizwan a couple of times since the award and he has since gone on to help us with our rail industry campaigns,” said Jason. “He’s a great advocate of giving colleagues the confidence to go out and speak about mental wellbeing. He’s said that if he can help and support in any way he’d love to do that if it saves somebody’s life.
“People who make that intervention, who make that connection, they often want to do more to help, sometimes like Rizwan, they add their passion giving incredible energy to these campaigns to help and support people.”
Samaritans' Real People, Real Stories campaign, which sees men who have overcome tough times share their stories to encourage others to seek help, was launched in March with a burst of media activity. More than 20 news outlets covered the new campaign and it featured on talkSPORT and BBC Breakfast to help spark conversations on mental wellbeing, particularly for men. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 and 80 per cent of suicides on the railway are by men.
Since the rollout, authentic stories from sporting celebrities – including former footballer Leon McKenzie and international rugby referee Nigel Owens – have aired on talkSPORT and shared on social media. Over 1,500 posters have been distributed to railway stations across Great Britain.
As well as people such as Rizwan who make a life-saving intervention, Jason was full of praise for staff for providing ongoing emotional support for passengers. He touched on a recent example of a member of gateline staff who had got to know a customer who had cancer and would regularly chat to them about how they were doing.
Jason added: “As soon as you feel like you’re struggling to cope, it’s really important to talk to someone. Samaritans is not only there for those experiencing suicidal thoughts, in fact only one in five of those that contact us say that they are feeling suicidal. We want to reach people whenever they are finding life tough.”
Building on the success of Real People, Real Stories, Samaritans is putting plans in place for its next big campaign, Samarathon.
Jason added: “We know that physical health has an impact on mental wellbeing. And so what we’re encouraging people to do in the month of July is to either walk or run a marathon – at their own pace – with friends and family. People can then go onto our website and record it and their sponsorship.”
Jason explained that Samaritans hopes to raise money, awareness, build resilience through improved physical health and have “a bit of fun” too through the campaign.
Come November, more people and more stories such as Rizwan and his heroic efforts will be acknowledged at the RailStaff Awards.
“We are so proud to sponsor the RailStaff Awards,” added Jason. “All of these guys do a really great job. They’re working hard and this is an opportunity to recognise what they do as they often go above and beyond.
“It’s an opportunity to thank them, acknowledge them and when that person gets awarded I think it’s an award that people can associate with and say we as an industry are being recognised too.”
Can you help Samaritans share its new Real People, Real Stories awareness campaign through local professional or semi-professional football or rugby clubs?
If so, please email: [email protected]