Small Talk Saves Lives campaign urges members of the public to look out for those at risk.
Figures released on Wednesday (7 November) by Network Rail show that members of the public in Wales and Borders have prevented suicide in the rail environment on 20 occasions in the last three years.
Following the launch of Small Talk Saves Lives by Samaritans in partnership with British Transport Police (BTP), Network Rail and the wider rail industry late last year, national figures reveal that there were 163 interventions by members of the public between January and September this year – a 20% increase compared with 2017.*
The figures coincide with the launch of a new phase of Small Talk Saves Lives, which emphasises how each of us has all the experience we need to help save a life. If we notice someone who may be at risk, the same small talk we use every day is enough to interrupt someone’s suicidal thoughts and encourage them to get help. So, trust your instincts and start a conversation; you can’t make things worse.
That’s the message in a new campaign video and a special station announcement for rail commuters across the UK, voiced by TV and radio presenter, Gaby Roslin. A Welsh version of the announcement will also be played in stations across Wales. Gaby is backing Small Talk Saves Lives after stopping to talk to someone in a park when she noticed something wasn’t right. 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 passengers could have a key role to play in suicide prevention, along with the thousands of rail staff and British Transport Police now trained by Samaritans.** For every life lost on the railway, six are saved by those around them.***
Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland said: “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.”
Bill Kelly, route managing director, Network Rail Wales and Borders said: “This campaign highlights the important role both our staff and customers can play in suicide prevention. We’re working hard across the rail industry to promote the impact a short conversation can have. Simply realising another person cares enough to take the time to talk can make a huge difference and could potentially be enough to interrupt individual’s suicidal thoughts.”
Jackie Doyle-Price, Minister for Mental Health, Inequalities and Suicide Prevention, said: “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.”
British Transport Police Chief Constable, Paul Crowther, national strategic policing lead for suicide prevention, said: “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.”
Small Talk Saves Lives encourages rail 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 to involving other passengers, alerting a member of rail staff or calling the police. Physical interventions are not recommended.
Samaritans volunteers will be out in force at stations across the UK to help promote the campaign.
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.