Every year emergency services and rescue teams in London deal with nearly 700 life-threatening incidents along the River Thames, resulting in at least 30 fatal drownings. Half of all these incidents are suicide-related as are nine in 10 of all deaths on the Thames.
In response to this, earlier this week, HRH Duke of Cambridge officially launched the #SaferThames campaign. This is a culmination of two years work by members of Tidal Thames Water Safety Forum (TTWSF) including the London Fire Brigade, RNLI, London Ambulance, MCA and Port of London Authority. I was pleased to be able to represent the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) at this event alongside other members of the National Water Safety Forum.
At the launch, we heard from a range of people who have been affected by drowning on the Thames and the organisations taking action within the #SaferThames campaign. We were honoured to be joined by the HRH Duke of Cambridge who gave an inspirational speech, ‘Every life lost and every life-changing accident is one too many. And that is why you are all gathered here today. To raise awareness of these dangers, and to work together to prevent them.’
We also heard from Samaritans who discussed the impact of their ‘Small Talk Saves Lives’ campaign and stressed the importance of simple conversation to help somebody at a point of crisis.
Demonstrating the power of simple ‘how are you, mate?’, Neil Laybourn and Jonny Benjamin, co-founders of mental health charity, ‘Beyond Shame, Beyond Stigma’ shared their story. In January 2008, a short conversation initiated by a passer-by, was enough to prevent the 20-year-old Jonny Benjamin from jumping off Waterloo Bridge.
We also heard from Suicide Prevention Minister, Jackie Doyle-Price who said ‘I now urge all the local authorities along the Thames to engage with this strategy.’ In a message to both councils in the capital and nationally, the Minister said ‘Local authorities are responsible for suicide prevention plans and need to do their bit to deliver a safer river.’
HRH Duke of Cambridge, underlined this in his speech and said “A simple – ‘hello, how are you?’ – is sometimes all it takes to save a life”. The Duke also met search and rescue crews from the Thames and families affected by drowning, including Becky Ramsey and Andrea Corrie.
I was encouraged to see the #SaferThames launch and all effort that has gone towards it, particularly how it aligns and responds to the National Drowning Prevention Strategy, which aims to halve accidental drowning deaths in the UK by 2026 and reduce the risk of people taking their own lives in the water.
RoSPA echoes the minister’s comments regarding a ‘place-based’ approach to drowning and suicide prevention. We now have several good examples in cities and communities around the country such as Manchester and York, Bristol and Durham. If we are realise a future without drowning, RoSPA believes that we need at least 60 or more community plans.
Later this year, we will be returning to London explore how communities can meet this challenge at the RoSPA National Water Safety Conference: Making Every Community Count.
David Walker, leisure safety manager
Posted: 5/24/2019 11:50:44 AM