Search media releases

Make small talk and you could save a life

Small Talk Saves Lives.jpg

Small Talk Saves Lives

View | Download (JPG - 1837 KB)

Commuters are being asked to take part in a new suicide prevention campaign on the railways which could save many lives a year and would involve them spotting vulnerable people and talking to them to interrupt their suicidal thoughts.

Samaritans, British Transport Police (BTP) and the rail industry, including Network Rail and the train operating companies, are launching Small Talk Saves Lives to give travellers the confidence to act if they notice someone who may be at risk of suicide on or around the rail network.

Small Talk Saves Lives is asking the public to trust their instincts and look out for fellow passengers who might need help, as illustrated in a new film that has gone live today.

 Small Talk Saves Lives encourages passengers to notice what may be warning signs e.g. a person standing alone and isolated, looking distant or withdrawn, staying on the platform a long time without boarding a train or displaying something out of the ordinary in their behaviour or appearance. There is no single sign or combination of behaviours that mean a person is suicidal but, if something doesn’t feel right, the message is to act. 

The emphasis is on responding in ways people feel comfortable and safe with. Different courses of action are suggested, depending on the situation and the response. They range from approaching the person and asking them a question to distract them from their thoughts, or alerting a member of rail staff or calling the police.

Sarah Wilson felt suicidal and planned to take her life on the railways, but didn’t as somebody reached out to her. Her story inspired the making of a video to promote the campaign, where unsuspecting passengers on a train platform initially think a station announcer is warning them of delays due to a suicide on the line, only to find out that they are listening to a story of hope and recovery, told by Sarah herself.

Sarah Wilson said: “Someone showing that they cared about me helped to interrupt my suicidal thoughts and that gave them time to subside. The more that people understand that suicide is preventable, the better. I hope people will share the video and that the campaign will encourage people to trust their gut instincts and start a conversation if they think someone could need help. You won’t make things worse, and you could save a life.’

British Transport Police Chief Constable, Paul Crowther, national strategic policing lead for suicide prevention, said: “Our officers make lifesaving interventions on the railway every day, together with rail staff and members of the public. We know from experience that when someone is in distress, simply engaging them in conversation can make all the difference and help set them on the road to recovery. It makes sense to let the public know that this simple act can help. We’re not suggesting people intervene if they don’t feel comfortable or safe to do so. They can tell a member of rail staff or a police officer – many of whom have been trained by Samaritans – or call 999.”

Find out more about Small Talk Saves Lives at: www.samaritans.org/smalltalksaveslives. You can also support by following the campaign @samaritanscharity on Instagram or sharing the video on Twitter @samaritans or Facebook at www.facebook.com/samaritanscharity, using the hashtag #SmallTalkSavesLives. 

Share release