‘Tragic deaths that demand a better response than I witnessed’ ~ Owen Jones

As I traveled back from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Edinburgh this evening, Monday 3rd December, after visiting my parents for the weekend we were informed of this incident explaining why the trains were running four hours late:




Even as mental distress and the risk of suicide soar, support is being slashed.

OWEN JONES Sunday 2 December 2012

Last week, someone ended their life by throwing themselves in front of the train I was travelling on.

I’ll never forget the moment of collision: although, of course, it was not obvious what had happened until a shaken train guard informed us all over the loudspeaker. Neither will I forget the largely respectful silence that followed, or the woman who wept as she told a loved one what had happened over the phone. But it is difficult to shake the memory of the passenger who tutted when we were informed of the inevitable delay. Like myself, this person just had experienced the death of someone below us; yet all that could cross their mind was the inconvenience inflicted upon them.

Even worse responses emerged when I scanned through Twitter. As train delays mounted, some frustrated passengers took to social media to assail the “selfishness” of the poor individual who had just ended their life. It demonstrated a failure of humanity, as well as a total inability to understand – or willingness to understand – what was going through the mind of someone in such despair that they would seek to end their life on a lonely stretch of railway tracks. It reminded me of one of the lowest depths plumbed by Jeremy Clarkson (which, I accept, is quite a statement): those who died on the tracks were “very selfish” because “the disruption it causes is immense”, he wrote. The rest of the rant is too grim to be quotable.

Around 200 people a year end their lives on Britain’s railways, and the Samaritans have launched a partnership with Network Rail to help railway workers spot the signs of someone who may need support. It is undoubtedly a horrifying trauma for the driver. A few years ago, railway driver Vaughan Thomas wrote of his own experience; months later, he could still see the victim “standing on the track, awaiting the inevitable”. Tragically, the Government has now withdrawn compensation for drivers scarred by such incidents.

For me, the incident underlined just how stigmatised and poorly understood mental distress is in Britain. It is desperately important that this is challenged, not least because lives are at risk. The number of suicides had been in decline for two decades until Lehman Brothers crashed; but, according to a study by the British Medical Journal earlier this year, more than 1,000 people may have ended their lives because of the economic crisis. Last week, the NUS reported that the number of students ending their own lives had surged. In 2007, 57 male students died by suicide; last year it was 78; the number of female students ending their lives had nearly doubled.

Men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women. Traditional, unreconstructed forms of masculinity have been challenged over the past few decades, and men are more likely to speak about their feelings than they once were; but the stigma attached to discussing mental health remains particularly acute among men. The disparity is at its most stark when it comes to class. According to the Samaritans, the poorest are 10 times more at risk of suicide than the most affluent. One in 10 women in the richest fifth of society are at risk of mental illness, according to the Health Survey for England; but among the poorest fifth, the rate is running at nearly a quarter.

According to one of the authors of the BMJ study, Ben Barr, joblessness, financial worries, debt and housing issues have all contributed to the rise in suicide deaths, and of course these are far more likely to affect the poorest. No wonder the Samaritans report that the number of people ringing them about financial worries has doubled since the crash began.

But even as mental distress and the risk of suicide soar because of austerity, the support is being slashed back. Back in October, 140 senior doctors savaged the Government over cuts to the NHS – protected, says David Cameron. As well as A&E departments closing, mental health wards have been shut or significantly cut in eight hospitals. In late October, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS mental health trust unveiled plans to cut 500 jobs and 20 per cent of its inpatient beds. For the first time in a decade, real-terms spending on mental health is falling. The website False Economy is documenting the slashing of funding to mental health charities across Britain. Even though the Government has announced it will give mental health parity with physical health under the NHS mandate, more people will inevitably die as support is ripped away.

The stigma, too, puts lives at risk. Last week, The Independent’s Patrick Cockburn movingly described his son’s experience with schizophrenia. “Mistreatment of the mentally ill is the trust test of any community because they are its weakest and most voiceless members,” he wrote. Back in 2008, the Government launched the Time to Change campaign to challenge stigma and discrimination towards those with mental health issues. It has a very long way to go indeed.

When Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Bondevik stood down for three weeks in 1998 to deal with a serious bout of depression, he was applauded and later re-elected; but it is still seen as something those in British public life would generally never dream of discussing. That was somewhat challenged in June in one of Parliament’s finest moments, when MPs including Kevan Jones and Sarah Wollaston stood up to describe their own experiences.

We desperately need to hear more such voices. As mental health charity Mind describes, those with mental health problems are often isolated; are unable to take part in everyday activities; and struggle to get jobs. No one sufferer has the same experience, and there is no one solution. But all of us will know people in our families, workplaces and communities who are silently struggling, unable to seek support.

I don’t know whose life ended under the train I was on, and neither do I know the circumstances that drove them there. I do know that, unless we address the stigma, the ever-declining support, the economic causes, and the sheer lack of voice, many more will take that last, lonely journey.

Twitter: @OwenJones84 


Related: Greeks seek austerity trial at The Hague

United Kingdom Government Denounced for Crimes Against Disabled People to International Criminal Court in The Hague

Deaths and Suicides linked to WCA: more evidence needed for justice

CUTS KILL! Health effects of financial crisis: omens of a Greek tragedy – The Lancet

#BMA #ARMlive ‘Europe’s unemployment rate linked to rise in suicides’ ~ “This is a public health emergency and I would say doctors have a very important role” Sir Michael Marmot tells symposium

Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7)

Posted Monday 3rd December 2012 from Twitlonger

Nine days ago I wrote a letter to Olga G. Yeritsidou, an educational psychologist living in Athens, Greece (see: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/k4gpm9), whom I had contacted because of this BBC news story (see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17811153).

Here is her just-received reply:

Olga Yeritsidou

10:59 AM (1 hour ago)

to me

Dear Mr Miller,

Thank you for your letter. I am glad to be hearing from you.

I will be brief in this first reply of mine to you because I just want to tell you that yes I do have data in my possession pertaining not only to deaths that could have been averted were the medical services and facilities working properly but also studies and estimates from credible sources (or at least allegedly credible) regarding the current situation of the ill, disabled and those with a propensity for illness in Greece.

Right now I am sorting through a literal mountain of data, evidence and reports on this exact matter and other similar mountains for all the other issues related, correlated or caused by the situation of the so called “memorandum-austerity” in Greece.

That is why I must ask for your patience for a few days and once the sorting is complete I will direct you to a whole database containing the information you require.

The reason we are doing all this is because the prosecutor’s office at the ICC has asked for further data before they move on our appeal. In short, they are asking me and my daughter to do their work for them, perhaps in hopes of us giving up and certainly for them to gain time.

I would be very interested to read what you have sent to the authorities and any expectations or developments. It would be interesting to press on that link of austerity with the stifling of Human Rights and certainly to give it as much publicity as possible.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Olga G. Yeritsidou


7 thoughts on “‘Tragic deaths that demand a better response than I witnessed’ ~ Owen Jones

  1. Paul Davidson says:

    Hello everyone. yet another desperately tragic loss of life my thought’s are with the family and friends’ and all who are traumatised.

    Going back to June 2005 I had my throat over a rail line as a metro neared. it was planned the night before I found a soft spot how to access the line picked the spot. just as I did for the Tyne bridge twice in 2004 only then twice snatched by brave police.

    Owen Jones is a very brave person for speaking out. on this and many an issue.

    As someone with Mental health and physical health issues who has endured his fair share of abusive stigma I felt the need to also speak out. ”MEN INDEED DO CRY”.

    Owen also mentioned Housing issues. I suggest you all look at my time line if you want to see real time abusive housing issues that caused this person to attempt such desperate measures to end it all it was not a cry for help I already had tried that as I have sinse taking my life was the ultimate get out clause for when the Government start’s getting barbaric as they are doing now.

    But before the Government abuses I had my housing provider dish out so much abuse over numerous years to contend with even when as a Media Volunteer I was being abused and its ongoing aon a daily basis to this day. ”Mental torture”. tempting me each draded moment of life to end it. my abusers taunt me with their perverted lies deciet and deception fed to the eager to blame me Council and other nod nod wink win supporters.

    If only Owen and the masses realised how im being abused stigmatised ridiculed taunted. and importantly who is behind it did I say who as in one person. I can name seven ward counsellors who have been neglegent to some degree in allowing the abuses to happen/continue and even cover it up.

    Gateshead is not a safe place to recide if you havea disability as well my abusers might get board with me and it could be ”you” next.

    Paul Davidson ”VICTIM”.

  2. Paul Davidson says:

    Hello All an update.

    I just got a letter from Job centre Plus I had been waiting for news from ATOS Tosee if I have o go fora Medical.

    Well I just got told from 28th this month I’m in the work related activity group.

    No mention of atos and their Medical oppinion no mention of point’s just transfered over.

    So now i’m in deep deep tropuble. just going to an interbview to see how I can be helped in to work will litrally kill me.

    It’s neerbeen about financial benefit’s to me it’s alwatys been abouthow my specific illness makes it impossible for me to ever work.

    Im already at extreme risk of suicide. I was already a danger to myself and others in the work place dueto obsessive though’s and massive manic dangerous ways of working.

    I have so many serious health issues. that make it impossible to even pretend to look for work/ytaining/

    I’m already fighting of suicide to to years of ongoing abuses from my housing provider of which im tryingvto flee my town to just escpe more real ongoing abuse.

    The last time the job cente wrongly forced me to attend a job centre 2005 I charged out screamming trying to reach the Tyne bridge.

    Im done for it’s just a matter of how and when.

    please someone at least record my writing’s.


      1. Paul Davidson says:

        Hello J.J. I will try to find your message im using hotmail now so big delay’s when passed over from my old mail address.

        Im very hurt around the comments abut how Tax payers are watching the benefit claimants in their own homes as they go to work

        Just how bad can they get? they are trying a nationwide Hate Campaign. so incredibly obvious.


  3. Humanity2012 says:

    The State of the Country and the Scum who Run it make Me Feel SICK

    They have Not a Clue or Care but Happily Live the Life of Riley

    STEALING from the Poor and VULNERABLE is the Crime against Humanity

    I Wish they were ALL out of Office and We had a Government of Decent Human Beings

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