Eastbourne and Seaford taxi drivers offered suicide intervention training
TAXI drivers operating near suicide hotspots are offered free prevention and response training to help identify signs of passengers in need.
The Taxi Watch programme, run by the charity Talk To Tom, teaches professional drivers how to spot the signs of someone suffering from a suicidal crisis, how to react and how to get the person to safety.
Free training is offered to drivers in Eastbourne and Seaford.
East Sussex County Council is one of the first local authorities in the country to offer local drivers the training, based on the charity’s Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) programme.
The training has been commissioned as part of the council’s wider suicide prevention strategy and is supported by Eastbourne Borough Council and Lewes District Council.
Taxi Watch was originally founded by Irish taxi driver Derek Devoy, who developed the initiative after meeting two suicidal individuals in one night.
Representatives from the councils involved were recently joined by Derek and drivers from Eastbourne taxi companies, and a representative from the Unite Union Independent Taxi Drivers covering the Lewes district, to mark the launch of the scheme.
Eastbourne taxi companies 720 Taxis and Sussex Cars will help their drivers to take part in upcoming trainings.
Councilor Carl Maynard, Senior Member for Adult Health and Social Care, said: “Taxi Watch is a fantastic initiative that can help save lives.
“The course will equip taxi drivers with the skills to identify a mental health emergency, giving them the tools they need to help save a life. I urge drivers who operate in Eastbourne and Seaford to sign up for the free training courses which will take place in May.
On his first night back behind the wheel of his taxi after battling his own sanity and attempting suicide, Derek encountered a man in distress on a bridge.
“I stopped and spoke to him, and he told me he wanted to die while he was under a repossession order. Later that same night, I met another man in distress. Luckily, through my own experiences, I was able to connect with them in some meaningful way,” he said.
“But I realized that other drivers were surely encountering people in difficulty. It made me think that maybe not every driver would know what to do or say in such a scenario, so the idea of Taxi Watch was born.
“Undoubtedly it will save lives in East Sussex, just as it has already saved hundreds of lives in Ireland.”
Ray Cullen, CEO of Talk To Tom, said: “It will, without a doubt, have a huge impact on the local community and put in an extra layer of safety for those who may be struggling with mental health issues.
“The key, as with any medical emergency, is early recognition and access. This is why Taxi Watch is so important. During a suicidal crisis, there will always be subtle signs that a person is in distress, so it is vital that drivers learn the skills to spot these signs.
“Coupled with the fact that drivers are often on the roads in the early morning, taxi professionals are in a unique position to be an additional safety net for people in difficulty. In short, this simple course could make someone’s hero.
While the training will initially be offered to drivers operating in Eastbourne and Seaford, it is hoped to expand the scheme across East Sussex subject to funding.
The training sessions will take place at the Kings Centre, Eastbourne, from 9.15am to 2.30pm on Tuesday May 24, Wednesday May 25, Friday May 27 and Saturday May 28.
Another session will take place on Thursday May 26 at the Seaford Golf Course.
Taxi drivers who would like to find out more or sign up for training should email [email protected]