Northern: South Yorkshire train driver who witnessed suicide of man on tracks speaks out

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“When I think about the guy that stepped in front of my train, it breaks my heart to think he felt there was no other option available to him."

A South Yorkshire train driver who witnessed the suicide of a man on the tracks in front of his train has urged men with mental health issues to seek help and talk about their problems. Mark Haigh, of Barnsley, has worked for the train operator Northern since 2018.

In 2022, he was at the controls of a service that struck and killed a man on the tracks in West Yorkshire.

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A South Yorkshire train driver who witnessed the suicide of a man on the tracks in front of his train has urged men with mental health issues to seek help and talk about their problemsA South Yorkshire train driver who witnessed the suicide of a man on the tracks in front of his train has urged men with mental health issues to seek help and talk about their problems
A South Yorkshire train driver who witnessed the suicide of a man on the tracks in front of his train has urged men with mental health issues to seek help and talk about their problems | Submit

Now, Mark has spoken out ahead of International Men’s Day on Sunday (19 November), the theme for which this year is ‘Zero Male Suicide’.

Mark said: “Men need to feel more comfortable talking about their mental health and there are an increasing number of groups, services and helplines out there dedicated to helping them deal with their emotions, anxieties and other struggles.

“When I think about the guy that stepped in front of my train, it breaks my heart to think he felt there was no other option available to him.

“If International Men’s Day helps just one man have the courage to reach out and ask for help then it has achieved an amazing thing and saved someone’s friends and family the unimaginable pain of dealing with a needless loss.”    

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The psychological impact on train drivers and conductors that witness these events is significant.

A spokesperson for Northern said all staff involved in tragic incidents such as these enter a ‘Chain of Care’ process provided by traumatic experience specialists.

"It can be weeks, months and in some cases over a year before they are able to resume operational duties," the spokesperson said.

Nick Donovan, managing director of Northern, added: “Mark’s heartfelt message is clear. We need to breakdown the taboo that sadly still exists around men talking about their mental health and seeking help with their problems.

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“International Men’s Day is a great opportunity to advance that cause and I applaud Mark for his willingness to talk about his own, deeply upsetting, experience and his plea for men to seek the help they need so they know they’re not facing their problems alone.”

The Northern spokesperson said the rail firm has previously worked with the men’s mental health charity, CHAPS and the male suicide prevention charity, Andy’s Man Club on one-to-one and group sessions on resilience for their male staff. International Men’s Day is an annual event designed to make a positive difference to the wellbeing and lives of men and boys around the world; raise awareness of the support services available to them; and to promoting a positive conversation about men, manhood and masculinity. For more information about International Men’s Day, visit: https://internationalmensday.com.

According to Samaritans, more than 6,000 people across the UK and Republic of Ireland take their own lives each year and suicide is more likely among men than women - and in particular men in their 40s and 50s from a lower socio-economic group. Suicides are preventable with timely, evidence-based interventions. Anyone struggling with their mental health can contact Samaritans for free on 116 123 or via email at [email protected]. Northern is the second largest train operator in the UK, with 2,500 services a day to more than 500 stations across the North of England.

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