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MAKE SMALL TALK AND SAVE LIVES – Campaign encourages the public to prevent suicide on the railways

Samaritans is launching a campaign with British Transport Police, Network Rail and the wider rail industry to give travellers the confidence to trust their instincts and act if they notice someone who may be at risk of suicide in or around a station.

By highlighting that suicidal thoughts can be temporary and interrupted with something as simple as a question, the campaign aims to give the public the tools to spot a potentially vulnerable person, start a conversation with them, and let them know support is available, including contacting Samaritans.

Stafford Samaritans will be at Stafford station from 7am – 5pm on Friday 1st December to distribute leaflets in support of this campaign.

Small Talk Saves Lives has been developed after research showed passengers have a key role to play in suicide prevention. * Further research showed the majority are willing to act, but many wanted reassurance they wouldn’t “make things worse”.**

The campaign draws on insights from successful interventions made by rail staff who’ve been trained by Samaritans in suicide prevention. For each life lost, six are saved and the hope is to get more people involved.***

A survey of people who travel by train, carried out for the campaign, revealed more than 4 out of 5 would approach someone who may be suicidal if they knew:

  • signs to look out for
  • what to say
  • they wouldn’t make the situation worse.

Nearly 9 out of 10 thought a person in need of support would find it hard to ask for help.**

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 involving other passengers, 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.**** Her story inspired 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.’

The campaign was also developed in consultation with people who have been personally affected by suicide, including where a loved one has taken their life on the railways.

alan sams photo

Alan Alecock – Stafford outreach said; ‘Suicide is everybody’s business and any one of us could have an opportunity to save a life. The knowledge and skills to save lives in the rail environment can be applied to many other situations. We hope that Small Talk Saves Lives is the start of a much wider conversation about how suicide is preventable.”

  • *Why do people take their lives on the railways in Great Britain? A research study, final report (August 2016, Middlesex University London & University of Westminster, Marzano, Borrill, Mackenzie, Fields, Kruger) Summary available on request.
  • ** Survey of 5,000 UK adults by 3GEM Research commissioned on behalf of Small Talk Saves Lives, carried out 6-11 October 2017. Summary available on request.
  • *** In 2016/17, there were 6.7 potentially life-saving interventions made for every suicide or suspected suicide on the railway. Figures calculated using data from the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) and British Transport Police (BTP).
  • **** Sarah Wilson’s name has been changed and her role in the video is played by an actor.
  • Anyone can contact Samaritans for free any time from any phone on 116 123, even a mobile without credit, and the number won’t show up on your phone bill. Or email [email protected] or go to to find details of your nearest branch where you can talk to one of our trained volunteers face to face.
  • Pictured above Alan Alecock from Stafford Samaritans