Are Train Drivers Affected By Death On The Tracks?

Watching someone make the decision to take their life is a trauma only few of us know. Imagining being privy to such a situation, we usually like to think we’d speak up, shout, offer comfort, or do whatever we could to try and get that person to change their mind about suicide. If we are forced to bear witness to the completion of a suicide, we take on the trauma of potentially gruesome violence, sudden loss, and helplessness.

Trauma can be defined in many ways and manifest differently for everyone. A contributing factor to the feeling of trauma, for many people, is the feeling of helplessness. Traumatic situations are situations which are entirely out of our control, which leaves us feeling out of control of our own lives in some way. Trying to grasp the reality of a trauma is like trying to hold onto grains of sand in the wind. Our symptoms of trauma manifest as struggle to find control and make sense of that which makes no sense, the traumas which have occurred in our lives.

Train drivers are deeply affected by the tragedies which can take place on their tracks. Too literally, they are on a train that cannot be stopped, at least, not in time to prevent the death of someone who has decided to take their life on the tracks. Each part of the scenario is deeply disturbing, distressing, and traumatizing for train workers. Not only to they have to watch the event happen, they are first to assess the situation once the train stops and witness the carnal damage.

Fairfax Media spoke with train drivers about their experiences and the trauma they go through due to the sometimes shocking nature of their jobs. Train drivers spot to feeling shocked, full of self-doubt, and guilt. There’s nothing a train driver can do but hit the breaks and lay on the horn. After a suicide on the tracks has been cleared with police, a train driver has to immediately return to their job: driving the train. As one train driver explained “…you have to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving.” Without time to process trauma, the trauma simply sits in the mind and the body. Since the stress of a potential hit is very real for train drivers, they live as though they are in survival mode every day, anticipating the next uncontrollable, helpless, tragic trauma.

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