A rail worker at a West London station has saved 29 people from taking their own lives since 2015.
Rizwan Javed, 30, from East London works for the MTR Elizabeth Line at Ealing Broadway station.
He won the Samaritans Lifesaver Award in 2018 which recognises people who have used their talking and listening skills to save lives.
The 30-year-old completed the Samaritans’ Managing Suicidal Contacts training course in 2015 which trains rail staff with the skills to help someone at risk of suicide on the railway.
Rizwan said it was “overwhelming” to win the award.
“It's a symbol of all the hard work of, not only myself, but colleagues and the Samaritans. It reminds me I can do better, it doesn’t stop here, the journey continues," he said.
Rizwan has made a profound impact on commuters at the station in West London.
He recalled one incident where he helped a woman who entered the station.
He said: “I was on a night shift one day and a young lady walked in.
“As I was going back to my office, I noticed the same person looking distressed. These were signs that rang alarm bells for me and I had to react quickly.
“Initially I phoned the signalmen who control our line and I got a line block in place. [I then] ran over to the individual [and] made conversation - it wasn’t easy initially, it was hard to engage.
“She had various thoughts in her head but eventually I talked her into a place of safety. After communicating with her for an hour, I called the British Transport Police who were going to come and assist her and provide support.
“We contacted her family who came down and were very supportive. Together all of the parties involved ensured she was safe and got the help she needed to potentially get back on track with her life and achieve all of the things she is capable of.”
Rizwan made such an impact on the woman’s life that she thanked him a week later.
He said: “I noticed her from a distance and she ran over and said ‘thank you’ to me, just for being there that night. It meant the world to me that she was ok and doing well for herself.”
In partnership with Network Rail, the Samaritans has trained 22,000 rail staff and British Transport Police officers with the skills to help someone at risk of suicide on the railway.
Rizwan said: “Having this training quite early in my career gave me the confidence and awareness on how to identify vulnerable people and approach a vulnerable situation.
“The Samaritans has helped me help other people.”
Despite the training, Rizwan was nervous when putting his training into practice.
“The first time I was put in a situation where I was dealing with a vulnerable person it was nerve wracking,” he revealed.
“Every aspect of the training was being implemented in real life and I was concerned. Am I going to say the right thing? Am I going to do the right thing? Am I going to be able to engage with this person?”
The rail worker eventually overcame his concerns and was able to help people who are in need. He said 'distressed facial expressions' and commuters 'removing their clothing' are signs to look out for. Furthermore, he advises people to discuss topics to 'distract' individuals who may need help.
Rizwan, a British Asian, also acknowledged how the Samaritans training provoked conversations about mental health within his family and friends.
He discussed how mental health can often be a taboo subject, and his training and experience has helped to create a more open conversation.
Rizwan added: “In the Asian culture [mental health] is not spoken about as much.
“I was educating my family, extended family and friends and spreading awareness of how important it is we speak to one another and it is ok not to be ok.
“Especially during the pandemic, so many have been suffering in silence and I think [it] has shown us how lonely and depressing life can get if we don’t have our loved ones around us or if we are not communicating with someone on a daily basis.”
The rail worker continues to be a positive influence in the station and regularly wishes commuters a ‘good morning’ or a ‘lovely day’ to bring a smile.
He said: “It's given me a positive mindset, I want to continue to make a difference in my life and spread awareness so others can do the same.
“Being in a customer focused environment, it's important to deliver that exceptional customer service.
“I can change myself [to make] the changes I want to see in the world. As much as it sounds cheesy, we need to spread love and engage with each other in London a lot more than we do.”
If you're struggling and need to talk, the Samaritans operates a free helpline open 24/7 on 116 123. Alternatively, you can email Jo@samaritans.org if you'd prefer to write down how you feel. You are not alone.