Gillian Assor is one of many members of the public who have saved a life on the railway.

Gillian, from Hertfordshire, intervened when she saw a man in distress while walking her dog with her husband.

She has shared her experience as part of a campaign backed by the rail industry, British Transport Police and charity Samaritans to encourage ordinary people to trust their instincts and help save a life.

There has been a 20% increase in the number of times a member of the public has acted to prevent suicide in the rail environment.

There were 163 interventions by members of the public between January and September this year, up a fifth from the same period a year earlier.

Gillian said: “It was getting dark and as we were walking I noticed a young man, he was bent over and sobbing, and in a place where he could have come to harm. I couldn’t just walk past him. I said, ‘Excuse me, are you okay?’ And he replied straightaway, ‘No, I’m not’.”

Gillian carried on talking to the young man. He gradually became calmer and eventually called his parents, who came to take him home. A few weeks later, he contacted Gillian through social media and she and her husband went to meet him. “You saved my life,” he said.

Samaritans offers suicide prevention training to workers across the railway:

Gerry Mann, a mobile operations manager at Network Rail in County Durham, was on a routine fence check this year when he struck up a conversation with a distressed woman he noticed sitting on waste ground.

He said: “I was required to attend the report of a young female trespassing approximately 400 yards north of the station.

“En route, Control rang and left a voicemail stating that the young lady had now left the railway after the driver of a passing train stopped to speak to her, but would I go and do a fence check as the driver also reported a hole in the fence?

“When I got to the location of the trespass, I could see the young female sitting on the ground. She made no attempt to move away whilst I took photographs of the damaged fence and phoned my report into Control.

“I was in the area for about 25 minutes before I started my walk back to my vehicle, casually glancing back to look at the young female. She was still sitting in the same position, but now with her head in her hands looking at the ground.

“I had walked about 75 yards, but I had a constant nagging feeling that something was not quite right and was compelled to go back to the vicinity. As I got closer to the area, I noticed there was no one to be seen. I walked a little further and between some large bushes I saw the same girl.

“I approached her and advised her that she was in a dangerous area and she could get hurt. She replied, quietly but in a forthright manner, that she ‘had come to die’. I was shocked, but it was clear to me that she was indeed intent on ending her life right here, as she explained that her life was not worth living.

“It took me a couple of minutes, but I gently coaxed her to safety, however she was adamant that after I left, she was going to end her life. It was at this point that I knew I would have to engage with her for longer and get her to a safer place.

Gerry started making simple small talk with the young girl, getting to know her on a more personal level.

“I asked her name and where she lived, and she told me her name, age and where she lived. I asked if she had any family and she said she had a little boy. To keep the dialogue going I asked his name and where he was.

“A little bit of small talk followed about my family and how much I loved them, and how would her son feel if his mum didn’t come home that night. As she began to open up to me a little more, she began rubbing her forehead and talking about the voices in her head that wouldn’t go away.

“At one point she tried to go back to the dangerous area, and it was then that I rang the signaller at a nearby station and asked for a caution to be put on. So as to not make her feel more anxious, I just said I was just letting my boss know where I was because I worked alone.

“I had asked her if she would like a tea or coffee at a nearby café, as it was the only thing I could think of to give her a reason to come with me to somewhere safe, but she responded saying she didn’t want anything.

“As she hadn’t seemed too fazed to me using my phone, I decided to ring control to ask for help from the emergency services.

“Once again, I asked if she would like a hot drink so we could talk, and thankfully she agreed this time, saying that if the trains were running slow she ‘couldn’t do what she had come to do anyway’.

“As we walked slowly up to the café we continued to talk and, finally, both began to relax a little.”

They sat and chatted over tea until Durham police arrived. “By this time, we were chatting as if we had been friends for years, I was even getting some smiles from her.”

If you need support, whatever you're going through, call Samaritans for free any time, from any phone on 116 123.

Samaritans is available round the clock, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you need a response immediately, it's best to call on the phone.  You don't have to be suicidal to call Samaritans.

Find out more about the Small Talk Saves Lives campaign