New “small talk” campaign aimed at preventing rising number of suicides on railways

Figures released today (November 7) by Network Rail show that members of the public in East Anglia have prevented suicide on 37 occasions at railway premises in the last three years.

Following the launch of a Small Talk Saves Lives campaign by the Samaritans in partnership with British Transport Police (BTP), Network Rail and the wider rail industry has also revealed that there were 136 interventions by members of the public between January and September this year – a 20 per cent increase on 2017 figures.

The campaign is now entering a new phase which emphasises how members of the public can help to save someone’s life if they believe they are at risk by using “small talk” to interrupt someone’s suicidal thoughts and encourage them to get help.

Television and radio presenter Gaby Roslin is backing the campaign and she 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 are now trained by Samaritans.

Samaritans chief executive, 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.”

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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.”

Richard Tew, head of safety at Network Rail, said: “We’re working hard across the rail industry to inform both our staff and customers of the important role they can play in suicide prevention, not only on the railway but in their communities too. One life lost is one too many; we want to highlight how suicidal thoughts can be interrupted, and that people can and do recover. Realising another person cares enough to stop and talk to you can make all the difference. It can be the first step on that road to recovery.”

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