Small talk saves lives

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Did you know that a little bit of small talk could save a life?

Believe it or not, that’s all it can take to interrupt someone’s suicidal thoughts, and even start them on the road to recovery.

Small Talk Saves Lives

Small Talk Saves Lives is a new campaign, run jointly by Samaritans, the British Transport Police and train companies all across Britain.

The campaign is about trusting your instinct, and speaking up if you see someone in distress. Possible warning signs that someone needs help include:

  • standing alone and isolated
  • looking distant or withdrawn
  • staying on the platform a long time without boarding a train
  • displaying something out of the ordinary in their behaviour or appearance.

What we’re doing

The rail industry and British Transport Police (BTP) work in partnership with Samaritans to reduce suicides on the railway. Our suicide prevention programme includes training railway employees and BTP staff to look out for and offer support to people who may be considering suicide and working within the wider community to de-stigmatise suicide and promote help-seeking behaviour. To date, 1,500 ScotRail Alliance staff have received suicide prevention training.

Small talk facts

  • Suicidal thoughts can be temporary
  • People who feel low can find it very difficult to ask for help
  • You can’t make things worse by starting a conversation
  • For every suicide on the railway, six are prevented
  • One in six railway staff and British Transport Police officers have received in suicide prevention

Susan’s story

Susan Temple, who works at Johnstone ticket office, is one of the 1,500 ScotRail Alliance staff who have been trained by Samaritans. When she found a man in distress on a station platform, she was able to start a conversation with him that ultimately saved his life.

Susan said: “When I first approached him, he was quiet and wouldn’t speak. I told him my name, but didn’t tell him I was a member of staff to make sure I didn’t worry him.

“He was very distressed and once he started talking, he spoke really quickly. He told me that the only way out for him was to take his life.

“I was able to signal to an oncoming train to slow down and walked to the driver and told him about the situation. I went back to the young man and continued to talk to him. He felt so down that he believed that everyone would be better off if he wasn’t here.”

Susan was able to contact the police, who took the young man into their care.


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.