British Safety Council supports 31 Hours, a play about suicide and mental health on the UK rail network

The British Safety Council has endorsed the production of 31 Hours at The Bunker Theatre in London recognising the importance of its subject – the reluctance and inability of men in ‘macho’ jobs and work environments to talk about their concerns and their feelings. The outcome is devastating:

​-       Every 31 hours, someone takes their own life on the railways in the UK rail network.
–       It is ten times more likely to be a man.

31 Hours is a story of four men who clean up after rail suicides. We observe them at work and when they return home. We watch as they deal with their own lives and their problems. In their own way. On their own. Silently. It is a story of four men failing to talk. Filled with humour and humanity, the play takes us on a high-speed kaleidoscopic journey through masculinity, mental health and messy aftermaths in modern Britain. 

The British Safety Council has recently unveiled its mental health training portfolio to help businesses and their employees start conversations about mental health issues and build a positive mental health culture.

On the 17 October, the staff of the British Safety Council watched the performance of 31 Hours. In the Q&A session afterwards, Louise Ward, Communications and Policy Director at the British Safety Council, spoke to Kieran Knowles, the author of the play, and answered the questions from the audience about issues explored by the play. Louise previously worked for four years at Network Rail as Head of Health and Safety, supporting the teams responsible for dealing with the aftermath of suicides.

Louise Ward said: “31 Hours carries a powerful message about the reasons behind and effects of fatalities on railways in Britain and about suicide in general. Importantly, it inspires conversation about mental health, which needs to occur much more widely – in workplaces, schools, families and in the media. Only by discussing these issues openly will we enable more people to recognise the signs of distress and to offer help. This will be supported by other interventions, including specialised advice and help, through organisations such as the Samaritans, whose posters are now displayed at many rail stations.

“The more we talk about mental health issues, the more it becomes acceptable to admit that one is affected by them. That it’s OK not to feel well and to talk about it.  Unlike physical ailments, which demonstrate themselves through a variety of symptoms, mental health problems are silent killers – they are ‘invisible’. That’s why affected people need to feel able to ask for help. When this happens, we will know that we have broken the stigma that currently surrounds poor mental health.”

Kieran Knowles, the author of 31 Hours, in his interview with Safety Management explained what inspired him to write the play: “At the time, I was working for a train operating company in a maintenance department and became more aware of the economic impact of suicides on the rail industry, the logistics involved in clearing up such incidents and the sheer number of people involved.

“If the biggest killer of young men was a new virus, we’d all be ploughing money into research and we wouldn’t accept it until we had eradicated it. It’s suicide; we are killing ourselves and we need the same investment and the same determination to deconstruct the issue and find a solution.”

Information about the production:

31 Hours, by Kieran Knowles
3-28 October at The Bunker Theatre (near London Bridge)
Tickets from £10 Box-office: 02072340486