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Saving lives

Train cameras aim to prevent suicide deaths

Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) will test a new type of camera on trains to prevent suicide deaths. It will be installed on locomotives to detect movement faster than the driver is able to see it and can respond.

Each year more than 100 people commit suicide in front of Swiss trains – in 2014 there were 140 deaths with 90 serious injuries. The state-run railway company has decided it needs further measures to complement those taken a year ago.

The new cameras would send a signal that would tell the driver to brake if unusual movement is detected near the moving train.

SBB launched a coordination office two years’ ago to tackle the problem with the help of the cantons, federal transport and health authorities as well as private services.

This was followed up in 2015 with an awareness campaign to highlight the normally taboo problem. SBB also initiated anti-suicide patrols and an advertising campaign promoting telephone help lines.

More than a third of its 30,000 rail staff have also been given special training in suicide prevention measures, primarily aimed at identifying people at risk.

Faster than the human eye

Kathrin Amacker, SBB’s communications chief, told reporters at a news conference in Zurich on Friday that the high-resolution cameras on locomotives are designed to trigger an immediate use of brakes. Last year, the SBB considered the use of motion detectors at strategic points.

It is also important to avoid copycat crimes, Amacker said, which explains why SBB broadcasts to train riders only that a "personal accident" has occurred when there has been a suicide attempt.

The SBB’s suicide prevention campaign includes a website for information about suicide prevention and support services. TV spots are planned for next year along with another campaign aimed at youth.

Until at least a decade ago Switzerland was in the spotlight for having Europe’s highest rate of suicide using guns per capita. From 1996 to 2005, 3,410 suicides, or between 24 and 28 per cent of all those in Switzerland, were committed using firearms.

In 2014, the World Health Organization's first-ever global report on suicide prevention found that in Switzerland, men above the age of 50 are the most vulnerable group and the suicide rate is slightly above the global average.

The average suicide rate in Switzerland was 12.2 per 100,000 inhabitants, slightly above the global average of 11.4.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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