TfL: Meet the Elizabeth line MBE worker at Paddington station who saved 29 lives

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Paddington station Elizabeth line worker Rizwan Javed has been appointed an MBE and is launching a mental health podcast.

An Elizabeth Line worker who was appointed an MBE after saving 29 people from taking their own lives on the railway since 2015 is launching a mental health podcast.

Rizwan Javed, from east London, works at Paddington station and said attending a Samaritans course when he started his job nearly a decade ago taught him how to identify and approach vulnerable individuals.

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The 33-year-old said he has plans to launch a podcast, Untangled 29, to further the conversation around mental health, teaching people how to recognise warning signs and seek help.

He told LondonWorld: “I want to talk about my story to encourage people to speak about their own mental health so that anyone going through a similar situation can relate to it and know that it’s okay not to be okay.”

Javed said the ‘untangled’ in the name was inspired by the feeling of life as a tangled mess of challenges that can make people feel lost.

“Untangled represents the determination to solve these problems,” he said. “Coming from an Asian background, it’s not so easy to speak about mental health issues,” he said. “Back in the day, if you were going through hardship you’d probably be offered a paracetamol and told to go to sleep and that it would be all right in the morning.”

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He said he has received a positive response to his social media pages and the news of his podcast.

“I’ve had messages from a mixture of people including those in the Asian community thanking me for providing this platform and inspiring them to take more time to invest in their families," he said. “I had someone who said they were going to join a Samaritans training course and someone else who wants to become a mental health first aider. It’s been amazing."

Rizwan Javed at No 10 Downing Street. (Photo by Rizwan Javed)Rizwan Javed at No 10 Downing Street. (Photo by Rizwan Javed)
Rizwan Javed at No 10 Downing Street. (Photo by Rizwan Javed) | Rizwan Javed

Javed said he was asleep when the letter telling him he had been awarded an MBE came through the post and his mother and sister tried to insist he open it, but he allowed them to do the honours.

“It’s been surreal. My sister was just over the moon. She read it out to my mum and handed it over to me. I read it 10 times over to digest it,” he said. “It’s an amazing recognition for the wider rail industry, not just myself, and all the amazing work every individual does as part of the railway family.”

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Javed said his parents’ compassion for others throughout his upbringing influenced his desire to help people with their mental health.

“They’ve always been selfless people, always willing to help strangers and go the extra mile and so I always had that mindset watching them when I was going up,” he said.

Clear signs to identify those at risk include the removal of clothing, actively missing trains and asking about non-stopping services, he said.

“I wasn’t aware of the safeguarding issue on the railway until I joined, but after my first suicide intervention I made a promise to myself that if I ever come across someone vulnerable again I will do everything in my power to make a difference,” he said.

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Javed recalled helping to save a young woman who was the same age as him at the time. She arrived at the station one evening on the anniversary of her father taking his life there.

“Thankfully, I managed to identify her on the platform. I got a line block in place, made some small talk, built trust with her and took her to a point of safety,” he said. “We provided her with support and she returned three weeks later and ran over to me and just hugged me and said: ‘Thank you so much. If it wasn’t for you that night, I wouldn’t be here.’”

Rizwan Javed at No 10 Downing Street. (Photo by Rizwan Javed)Rizwan Javed at No 10 Downing Street. (Photo by Rizwan Javed)
Rizwan Javed at No 10 Downing Street. (Photo by Rizwan Javed) | Rizwan Javed

Javed won the Samaritans Lifesaver Award in 2019 in recognition of his effective communication used to save lives.

The charity works with Network Rail to deliver suicide prevention courses to rail workers and says it has equipped more than 28,000 staff with the skills to help someone at risk of suicide since 2010.

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“The course gave me the confidence to identify someone as a vulnerable person and to follow your instincts if you feel something’s wrong,” Javed said.

Considering how Londoners can be more aware of the vulnerable individuals on the city’s railway network, he said: “We can all be more empathetic and look at it from the perspective that it could be a loved one.

“Have an open mindset to initiate small talk or just to ask someone if they’re okay. Having that confidence is all it takes and it will go a long way to making a massive difference.”

Julie Bentley, CEO of Samaritans, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that Rizwan has been recognised for his invaluable contribution to suicide prevention.

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“Rizwan has become a passionate advocate for Samaritans’ training and his outstanding efforts to support vulnerable people on the railway have undoubtedly inspired many others to join our mission to reduce suicide.”

For confidential support, call Samaritans on 116123 or visit www.samaritans.org.

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