SWR joins Samaritans to remind public that small talk can be lifesaving

Tuesday 21st February 2023

Back of a man wearing a Hi-vis tabard with South Western Railway and 'Small Talk Saves Lives' logos

  • Samaritans survey shows only half of the nation feel confident approaching someone they are concerned about in public.
  • SWR has joined with Samaritans for their Small Talk Saves Lives campaign, hosting station outreach events to speak to passengers and empower them to act if they see someone who needs help by starting a conversation
  • SWR colleagues at two stations will also wear special hi-vis tabards with the campaign logo

South Western Railway (SWR) has joined Samaritans to remind the public that we all have the potential to be lifesavers by simply striking up a conversation, as part of Samaritans’ latest Small Talk Saves Lives campaign in partnership with Network Rail and British Transport Police.

From Tuesday, SWR colleagues at Southampton Central and Woking stations will be wearing hi-vis tabards bearing the Small Talk Saves Lives logo. This is down to the efforts of Jason, one of SWR’s drivers, who has worked with Samaritans and SWR after being inspired to help from his own experience.

After being bereaved by suicide and knowing rail staff who have also been impacted, Jason wanted to encourage passengers and staff to talk and know they’re not alone, so no one has to face what his family have been through.

Jason has had his own journey with his mental health and when he was feeling at his lowest, he reached out to Samaritans online web chat for help. SWR is happy to support Jason’s initiative having worked with Samaritans since 2010.

This new campaign comes after new research from Samaritans revealed that only 50% of UK adults said they would feel confident approaching and speaking to someone they don’t know if they were concerned about them in public.

The survey also suggested that we’re more comfortable behind a screen as a nation, as people would much prefer chatting to someone they don’t know on the phone (33%) or by email (18%), compared to face-to-face (9%).

Of those who said they wouldn’t feel confident approaching someone they don’t know, the top reasons holding them back were ‘worrying the person wouldn’t welcome their approach’ (44%) and ‘worrying they’d make things worse’ (29%), whilst a quarter said ‘not knowing what to say’ was also a concern.  

So, Samaritans is relaunching its Small Talk Saves Lives campaign today, in partnership with Network Rail, British Transport Police and the wider rail industry, to empower the public to trust their instincts and start a conversation if they think someone needs help on the railways or in other public settings.

As part of the launch, a new film across digital and social media reassures the public that a little small talk like ‘where can I get a coffee?’ can be all it takes to interrupt someone’s suicidal thoughts and help set them on a path to recovery.

In a campaign first, Samaritans volunteers across the country will also be heading to their local stations to host outreach events. Samaritans’ volunteers will be joined by SWR staff at a number of stations during February and March, speaking to passengers about the campaign, highlighting the power of talking and providing myth busting leaflets to help ease any concerns they may have.

Julie Bentley, Samaritans CEO said: “It’s normal to feel anxious about starting a conversation with someone you don’t know in person, but at Samaritans we know first-hand how life-changing that conversation could be. Suicidal thoughts are often temporary and there’s no evidence to suggest that you will make the situation worse – it’s about trusting your instincts, starting a conversation, and showing you care. We know it’s been a really challenging time for people’s mental health over the last few years, so we hope the Small Talk Saves Lives campaign builds that confidence and remind the public of the difference they can make. Let’s continue to look out for one another – it could save a life.”

Jane Lupson, SWR’s Safety and Security Director said: “South Western Railway is really proud to once again be working in partnership with Samaritans on this important campaign to highlight the power of small talk. We’ve worked with Samaritans since 2010 to encourage life-saving conversations with both our staff and the public. It’s so important we continue look out for one another, as we all have the power to start a conversation, which could save a life.”

For more information and tips, visit Samaritans.org/smalltalksaveslivesSamaritans.org/smalltalksaveslives or join the conversation on social media using #SmallTalkSavesLives

SWR station events

  • Woking - 23rd Feb from 11am – 1pm
  • Basingstoke – 27th February from 7-10am and 10th March from 6-9pm
  • Clapham Junction – 28th February from 8-10am and 28th March from 4.30-6.30pm
  • Guildford – 27th February from 7-11am and 3-6pm
  • Southampton Central – date TBC

About the research:

The research was conducted by Censuswide with 2,004 Nationally Representative UK General Consumers (16+) between 03.01.2023 - 05.01.2023. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles and are members of The British Polling Council.

Samaritans and Small Talk Saves Lives:

  • A brand-new campaign film launches today (21 February) across digital and social media, showing the difference people could make if they listen to their instincts and overcome initial worries that may come to mind if they see someone who needs help. Available to watch/download here: https://youtu.be/5bWC3Opj0gghttps://youtu.be/5bWC3Opj0gg
  • Due to the proven link between certain types of media reporting of suicide and increases in suicide rates, please be mindful of Samaritans’ Media Guidelines for Reporting SuicidMedia Guidelines for Reporting Suicidand Rail SuicideRail Suicide.
  • In partnership with Network Rail, Samaritans has trained over 27,000 rail staff and British Transport Police in suicide prevention, enabling them to identify and support vulnerable people to safety. This is part of the charity’s long-standing partnership with the rail industry to reduce suicides and support those affected by them.
  • Anyone can contact Samaritans FREE any time from any phone on 116 123, even a mobile without credit. This number won’t show up on your phone bill. Or you can visit www.samaritans.orgwww.samaritans.org