‘The aim is to inspire other people fighting a similar battle’
Rizwan Javed, a London rail worker, has been appointed an MBE for helping save the lives of dozens of vulnerable individuals
“You never know what someone’s fighting through and how your little interaction with them can make a huge impact on their life,” said Rizwan Javed, a railway worker who was appointed an MBE in the new year honours list.
Javed, 33, who has been honoured for saving those at risk of ending their lives on railways, has lived in East London his whole life. He met me in a Stratford coffee shop on his day off to speak about his experiences supporting vulnerable people at risk of suicide.
Javed works on the MTR Elizabeth line at Paddington station and joined the railway in 2014. His job involves overseeing the safety of trains and passengers coming into the station. But never in a million years did he imagine that he might be responsible for more than two dozen life-saving interventions.
“I didn’t even know there was a safeguarding issue on the railway.”
In 2015, Javed took a Samaritans course to help train railway workers to approach people in distress. Two days later, he found himself helping someone from taking their own life. “To be honest, I thought someone on the course was testing me on whether I was listening,” he said.
“Initially I was a bit hesitant, I thought, I’m not going to say the right things. But it just started off with talking about the weather, and it turned into them sharing about their life with me.”
Javed has since intervened on dozens of separate occasions, counselling people from all walks of life and ages. He credits his MBE to his upbringing at the hands of his parents — his father, now retired, helped set up an Asian newspaper, and his mother is a homemaker. “They’ve always wanted to help everyone, whether it was family or total strangers.”
The news of the award was a shock to Javed, who told me about how much he has been changed by each of his interventions. “As much as people say I’ve helped these individuals, I feel like they have helped me in many different ways,” he said.
Javed uses his Instagram and TikTok accounts to share his experiences and inspire others. “Everyone is built with the skills to approach people. It’s about having the confidence to have that difficult conversation,” he said
He is looking forward to attending the MBE ceremony with his family. In the meantime, he will continue to highlight the importance of mental health. “The aim is to inspire other people that are fighting a similar battle,” he said. “We’re all fighting a battle of some sort. We’re just at different stages.”
In the UK or Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted by phone on 116123, a free service. You can find other ways of contacting Samaritans here.
Get the Hyphen weekly
Subscribe to Hyphen’s weekly round-up for insightful reportage, commentary and the latest arts and lifestyle coverage, from across the UK and Europe