Scots transport PC aims to be life-saver on the railways

British Transport Police officer Pete McAndie, whose experience with a young man who committed suicide led him to head suicide prevention within his division. Picture: Alison Campsie
British Transport Police officer Pete McAndie, whose experience with a young man who committed suicide led him to head suicide prevention within his division. Picture: Alison Campsie
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It was a call-out that was to leave its mark on PC Pete McAndie.

The British Transport Police officer was the first on the scene to deal with a young man who had attempted suicide, with the constable trying desperately to save him.

He used his first aid skills on the casualty, but saw life leave the man as the two lay on the street in the city centre.

For McAndie, who had served eight years in Police Scotland including a spell in Special Branch, dealing with death was part of the job.

But, as the Aberdeen-based constable said, you never know which case is going to stay with you. For McAndie this was the one.

“He died there with me and that bothers me. His chances of survival were next to nil, but it still bothers me,” he said.

After that night, McAndie has led suicide prevention within his division and works with mental health doctors to improve information and care for those most at risk.

He is also leading a fund­raising campaign for Mental Health Aberdeen, which has been put under financial pressure since the oil downturn cut the charity budgets of companies.

The aim of the fund-raiser is to stop even just one person from getting to crisis-point.

But encouraging more people to be open about mental health and suicide would be an achievement too, the officer said.

McAndie added: “With all the suicides I have dealt with, and they have all had different reasons for doing it, there has never been one that I thought ,‘There was nothing that could have been done for them’.

“Every single one of them, if they had just knocked on a door and said ‘this is my problem’, it would have made a difference.

“You wouldn’t be able to fix it there and then but you could tell them, ‘This is what you have to do, this is where you need to go.’ Sometimes people just can’t see it.”

Last year, 327 people took their lives on the railway network across the UK. A further 935 people were physically prevented from killing themselves by officers, either from BTP or other forces.

In Scotland, in the 12 months to March 2015, 21 took their own lives on the railways.

BTP has piloted suicide prevention plans for people thought to be at risk. They build up a picture of the individual, potential triggers and personal information that might help.

“The idea is that by the time you get to that person, you know who they are by the time they arrive. It would be little things, such as don’t talk to them about football but talk to them about music. They are pointers that can raise all the difference.”

David Smillie, fund-raising and marketing manager at Mental Health Aberdeen, said the charity was “extremely grateful” to McAndie and colleagues in Aberdeen.

He added: “Two of our main goals as a charity are to provide help and support to those suffering from mental ill-health, as well as raise awareness and de-stigmatise the illness.

“The BTP have been extremely valuable in both regards, offering much- needed financial support in an extremely difficult financial climate for the Aberdeen area.”