Railroad Suicide Prevention Project

The Railroad Suicide Prevention Project seeks to reduce the occurrence of railroad trespasser suicide by identifying key hot spots with a high frequency of intentional death by rail and by providing additional training to frontline railroad personnel likely to encounter persons at risk for intentional death by rail. In addition, the project will engage the community, including social service and mental health agencies, local businesses in close proximity to the railroad adjacent to those locations, and other organizations with public awareness advertising and by providing suicide awareness and intervention training designed to encourage volunteer participation in outreach and intervention.

The desired outcome and benefits will be to increase the knowledge, expertise, and self-efficacy of railroad staff, frontline personnel. We also expect to increase community awareness and referral of persons at risk for railroad related trespass and intentional death by rail. These activities should lead to a reduction of trespasser fatalities and intentional deaths by rail. The Project will evaluate these goals by gathering data on the frequency of trespassers and confirmed suicides as well as increasing public awareness of the challenge methods to mitigate and refer persons at risk for intentional death by rail.


The National Suicide Prevention Plan and other research call for a multifaceted eco-system approach that envisions a multi-pronged approach to the identification prevention of suicides. In the rail industry, the railroad personnel are the last line of defense against intentional death by rail. Many other individuals and community groups systems organizations and programs may have contact with an individual before he or she acts toward intentional death. Accordingly, this intervention approach is multifaceted.

Railroad Suicide Ecosystem

The essence of this conceptual approach is that an individual is embedded in a set of systems and subsystem that influence each other. The individual dealing with their particular needs and issues, comes into contact with these systems at many different touch points and points of contact. At each point there is an opportunity to influence the person. Consequently, an effective program of prevention must address multiple points within in the community eco system.

Suicide prevention is usually seen as be most effective if a community ecosystem model is applied. In such a conceptual model the behavior of the person who intends to harm themselves is embedded in a socials system. The social system includes the society as whole, the state and local government (county and city), the community members, and those people who encounter the individual daily.

In a railroad suicide situation, the railroad personnel are typically the LAST line of defense in that they may observe the individual on or near the tracks. Their job in responding to a suicidal individual will be to identify them as a risk and help them to seek assistance from other resources in the community.

Training Programs Designed to Implement these Concepts

View Programs

Publications & Presentations

Remedial Actions to Prevent Suicides on Commuter and Metro Rail Systems
Patrick Sherry, Ph.D., University of Denver

APTA: Preventing Intentional Death by Commuter Rail
Patrick Sherry, Ph.D., University of Denver

Preventing Intentional Death by Rail
Keaton Zucker, M.S.

Railroad Suicide Intervention Checklist
Patrick Sherry, Ph.D., University of Denver

Patrick Sherry, Ph.D., University of Denver

Andi Pusavat, Ph.D., University of Denver

Project Associates

  • Dr. Patrick Sherry, Ph.D., ABPP
    Pat Sherry headshot

    Dr. Patrick Sherry is a professor with a specialization in intermodal transportation and occupational psychology at the University of Denver. Since 2003 he has served as the Director of the National Center for Intermodal Transportation and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Intermodal Transportation Institute at the University of Denver. In addition to scientific research he has consulted extensively with Fortune 500 transportation companies throughout the US and Canada in the areas of safety, human resources, and leadership training. He has conducted research in the area of human factors related to the hours of service for the transportation industry. He developed and validated an assessment battery for selecting and hiring managers in a large rail transportation company and is currently working on a documentary film and a book describing state of the art intermodal transportation solutions in the Western United States.

    Dr. Sherry has been extremely active in the identification and development of leaders in business and industry. His book on training and development needs of leaders in the transportation industry and 150+ articles and scientific papers have influenced thousands of professionals and students. Applying cutting edge behavioral science to training and education he was a co-founder of the Pioneer Leadership Program - an on-campus training program that had the highest enrollment of students on campus. In addition, he directs and evaluates potential participants for the Founding Fathers Project, an in-depth study of 40 CEOs and leaders of transportation companies. Most recently Dr. Sherry co-authored a study on the workforce development needs of professional in the transportation industry.

    Dr. Sherry addressed the US House of Representatives' Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure earlier this year and identified five major challenges facing the US transportation system. He has also worked in both Europe and Asia, consulting on hiring decisions, assessment instruments and practices, and the development of executive training programs with private industry and government.

  • Andi Pusavat, Ph.D.
    Andi Pusavat headshot

    I've been a DU Clinical faculty member and the Training Clinic Director of the Counseling and Educational Services Clinic for the past nine years. I previously worked as the Director of the Iliff Counseling Center for six years. I completed a Postdoc at University Health System Detention Health Care Services in San Antonio, Texas, and completed a Pre-doctoral Internship at Denver Health Medical Center. My clinical interests include supervision, social justice, and trauma, and my research interest is in intimate partner violence. Some of my other professional activities include: Past President of the Colorado Society of Psychologists in Private Practice for two years, founding member of the Colorado Psychological Association Society for the Advancement of Multiculturalism and Diversity, and presenter at the American Psychological Association, the Association of Psychology Training Clinics, the International Association for Suicide Prevention, and the National Summit on Interpersonal Violence and Abuse Across the Lifespan. Outside of work, I enjoy hiking different parts of Colorado, exploring Denver's food and music scenes, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.

  • Briana Hedman, Ph.D.

    Briana Hedman is a Licensed Counseling Psychologist with experience in suicide and crisis intervention and behavioral health. Adept at helping people dealing with depression and other life crises, she is able to assist others in identifying and working toward realistic, meaningful, and measurable goals. In addition to individual counseling, she was trained in crisis intervention and group therapy. While at the University of Denver she was the Assistant Director of the National Center for Intermodal Transportation, a position she held from 2010-2016. During that time she was involved in research projects, including the design, implementation, and coordination of research teams. Her areas of interest consist mainly of workforce development and organizational culture as it relate to productivity and retention of employees in the public transportation sector. She is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Transportation Research Board, the Transportation Research Forum, and the American Psychological Association. Prior to her work at the NCIT, she worked as a Project Coordinator for a 5-year longitudinal study funded by the National Institute for Mental Health at the University of California, Los Angeles. She currently works in private practice, and also does research for substance abuse and mental health as a clinical interviewer. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.