Information for media
In contrast with many European countries, railway suicides constitute a very small proportion of deaths by suicide in Canada and we hope that Canadian railway suicides will not increase in future years. Several dramatic examples in Europe, particularly in Austria and Germany, have shown that when news reports appeared about railway suicides, the number of deaths by railway suicides increased dramatically. There was a parallel increase in overall suicide rates, indicating that the increase was not due to a change in preferred method, but rather an increase in suicides by people who were affected by reading reports about rail suicides. Publicizing any suicide method, even when the intent is to call attention to the need for prevention, has often resulted in increased tragic deaths by suicide. For example, deaths by burning charcoal in a sealed room were rare in Hong Kong until newspapers reported on deaths using this method. The impact was so great that this manner of death became a preferred suicide method and suicide rates increased as this method was used more often. For this reason, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) have published recommendations and guidelines for the media on the reporting of suicides (Media guideline by WHO).
All suicides are tragic events because suicides are usually preventable. Suicides are usually associated with the presence of a mental disorder. Railway suicides are even more tragic because there are additional victims besides the person who takes his or her own life. Crew members who are involuntarily involved in the death have a severe impact which in many cases affects them for the rest of their lives. For this reason, Transport Canada and Canadian Railways are very concerned with doing everything possible to prevent suicides and accidental deaths on the rails. As previous research has shown, any media coverage of this phenomenon and reports on the findings in this report have a high probability of increasing the use of this method for suicides, particularly by people who suffer from mental health problems. For this reason, extreme caution is advised for those considering news reports about the findings presented in this document. Journalists considering media reports on railway suicide should consult the WHO Guidelines and also are encouraged to consult with the authors of this report in order to minimize the risks of tragic increases in railway suicides in Canada that could result from their well-intentioned media coverage if they ignore those recommendations.