INTRODUCTION We critically review research on railway suicides to inform suicide prevention initiatives and future studies, including who is at risk and why, and behaviours at track locations. METHOD Literature was identified from Scopus, Web of Science, Google Scholar and our documentation centre, and contacting 71 railway companies, resulting in 716 articles and eight unpublished reports, with 94 having empirical data on 55 unique studies. Research quality was critically assessed. RESULTS The quality of studies varies greatly with frequent shortcomings: no justification of sample size, lacking information on the reliability and validity of measures, no explanation nor theoretical understanding of findings. Railway suicides resemble closely people who use other methods, although they tend to be younger. As with other suicide methods, mental health problems are likely to be present. Railway suicide attempters usually die, but most urban transportation systems attempters survive. Railway suicides are rarely impulsive; people usually go to the railway for the purpose of killing themselves. Hotspots have been the focus of some prevention measures. We know little about why people choose railway suicide, but studies of survivors suggest they often thought they would have an immediate, certain and painless death. Media reports on railway suicides can increase their incidence. CONCLUSIONS Most research focuses on the incidence and characteristics of events and attempters. Research has not shown that railway suicides are different from suicides by other means. Better quality research is needed, particularly studies that investigate why people use railways to kill themselves and how railway suicides can be effectively prevented, as well as more evaluations of prevention programmes. Because of significant variations by country and region in characteristics of railway suicides, prevention programmes should conduct a local assessment of the characteristics of attempters and incidents. PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS We need more research on indicators of suicide risk in attempters on railway property, and studies of how suicidal people on railway property are prevented from suicide. Changing beliefs and attitudes about railway suicides, reducing media reports, offering help onsite, controlling access at hotspots and better staff training in mental health facilities near tracks are promising prevention strategies. However, local specificities must be considered in planning prevention strategies.
B. Mishara, Cécile Bardon
Journal of affective disorders