"Small Talk Saves Lives" Campaign Re-Launches to Encourage Passengers to Help Prevent Suicide

Bonnie Evie Gifford
By Bonnie Evie Gifford,
updated on Nov 7, 2018

"Small Talk Saves Lives" Campaign Re-Launches to Encourage Passengers to Help Prevent Suicide

The latest campaign from the Samaritans, in partnership with Network Rail and the British Transport Police asks passangers to act on their instincts and intervene if they see somebody who may be in need

More of us are speaking up and acting to help prevent suicide, according to the latest figures revealed today by Network Rail. New data has found the number of times the public has acted to prevent suicide in the rail environment has increased 20%. Following the launch of the Small Talk Saves Lives campaign late last year, figures reveal 136 interventions by members of the public took place between January and September of this year.

The release of these figures coincide with the re-launch of the Small Talk Save Lives campaign. Created by the Samaritains in partnership with the British Transport Police (BTP) and Network Rail, this campaign asks passengers to act on their instincts if they notice somebody who may be in need.

Encouraging the public to make small talk if they see someone acting in a way that concerns them, the campaign highlights the power even small conversations can have in interrupting someone’s suicidal thoughts. The latest video, released on 7 November, aims to inspire the public and reassure them that they already have all of the experience needed to potentially make a difference and save a life. By using the everyday conversations we already have, we may be able to intervene at a vital moment and encourage someone in need to get help. Trusting our insincts is key.

Alongside the video campaign, special station announcements will be used across the UK. Voiced by radio and TV presenter Gaby Roslin, who had a similar experience first-hand when she stopped to talk to someone in a park after noticing something wasn’t right. When asked about the campaign, Gaby said:

“The little conversations we have every day can be all that’s needed to interrupt suicidal thoughts. Once you know that you have the power to make a difference, you’re more likely to step in and do something.

“I wanted to get involved in the Small Talk Saves Lives campaign after noticing someone in a park and trusting my instincts. Just a few words can have a huge impact.”

Small Talk Saves Lives was developed after research showed the key role passengers can play in suicide prevention, along with thousands of rail staff and Samaritan trained BTP. According to research, for every life lost on the railway, six are saved by those around them.

For every life lost on the railway, six are saved by those around them

Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland shared her thoughts on the campaign:

“It’s really heartening to see more members of the public feeling they have the confidence and knowledge to act if they’re worried about someone, and we’re grateful for their support. Suicide is preventable and any one of us could have an opportunity to save a life. And a study shows some of us make small talk more than ten times a day.

“A phrase as simple as, ‘I can’t believe this weather’, could be enough to interrupt a person’s suicidal thoughts. Even if small talk doesn’t come naturally to you, if something doesn’t feel right, please try to start a conversation. There’s no evidence you’ll make things worse.”

Jackie Doyle-Price, Minisfer for Mental Health, Inequalities and Suicide Prevention spoke about why passengers may feel uncomfortable speaking up.

“It’s easy to understand why people might feel uncomfortable or shy about approaching a stranger when they notice something is not quite right. But, when you realise speaking up could have the power to save someone’s life, our own personal discomfort quickly seems insignificant.

“It’s promising to see the success of the Small Talk Saves Lives campaign so far and I look forward to seeing it continue to make a real difference.”

Paul Crowther, British Transport Police Chief Constable and national strategic policing lead for suicide prevention, shared how the public can help if they do not feel comfortable interviening themselves.

“We know from our officers’ experiences that when someone is at risk on the railway, simply engaging them in conversation can make all the difference and help set them on the road to recovery. Together with Network Rail and Samaritans, we’re highlighting to the public that the small talk the public do so naturally every day really can help. We’re also encouraging those who don’t feel comfortable or safe to intervene to tell a member of rail staff or a police officer – many of whom have been trained by Samaritans – or call 999.”

The Small Talk Saves Lives campaign highlights some of the warning signs passengers can look out for whilst at stations or near railways, including:

  • if a person is standing alone or appears isolated
  • looking withdrawn or distant
  • staying on the platform for an extended period of time without boarding a train

While no single or combined behaviours mean an individual is experiencing suidical thoughts, the campaign emphasises that if something doesn’t feel right, we should act whilst ensuring we still feel comfortable and safe.

Recommending a variety of actions depending on the situation, advice ranges from approaching the individual and making small talk to help distract them from their thoughts, to involving other passangers, alaerting members of rail staff, or calling the police. Phyical intervention is not recommended.

To highlight the launch of their new campaign, Samaritans volunteers will be out in stations across the UK to talk and help promote the campaign.

To find out more about Small Talk Saves Lives, visit

If you are worried about your own mental health or the wellbeing of a loved one, visit Counselling Directory to discover more about accessing help, starting your journey with a counsellor, and how to support a loved one.

If you are experiencing distressing thoughts, feel like you have now options, or are in immediate danger of harming yourself, call 999 or go to your nearest A&E department where trained medical staff are available to help.

If you need help and support you can call your GP’s surgery to speak to someone about how you are feeling. The Samaritans are also available to speak 24/7 for free on 116 123. The person on the other end of the line will not know who you are, won’t judge you or tell others about how you are feeling. They are there to listen anytime by phone, email, SMS, or letter.

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