Simple words can save a life

By Barrie Hudson - 21 February 2023


Swindon & District Samaritans are reminding the public that we all have the potential to be lifesavers by simply striking up a conversation.

It is part of the charity’s latest Small Talk Saves Lives campaign.

The campaign follows research from Samaritans revealing that only half of UK adults would feel confident in public approaching and speaking to a stranger they were concerned about.

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 percent) or by email (18 percent), compared to face-to-face (nine percent).

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

The charity is relaunching its Small Talk Saves Lives campaign 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 can be all it takes to interrupt someone’s suicidal thoughts and help set them on a path to recovery.

To raise awareness of this campaign, Swindon & District Samaritans were this morning - 21 February at Swindon Station alongside the team at Great Western Railway, speaking to passengers about the campaign, highlighting the power of talking and providing myth-busting leaflets to help ease any concerns the public might have about approaching someone in distress. 

Susie Higgs, volunteer branch director at Swindon & District Samaritans, said: “It’s understandable that you might feel nervous about approaching someone you don’t know, but at Samaritans we know that suicide is preventable and suicidal thoughts are often temporary. 

"So, just by having the confidence to trust your instincts, and use those small talk skills we all have, it could be all it takes to help interrupt those thoughts. 

“We hope that message is reassuring to people if they are worried, as there’s no evidence that you will make the situation worse and you don’t need training for this.

"It’s about being there for that person, listening and showing you care which can make all the difference. It has been a challenging time for everyone recently, so let’s look out for one another and save lives.”

Launched in 2017, Small Talk Saves Lives was developed after research showed the positive part the public could play in suicide prevention. The campaign is backed by suicide prevention expert Dr Lisa Marzano from Middlesex University. 

Dr Marzano said: “In our latest research we spoke to those who had made and received interventions themselves and they really echoed the main Small Talk Saves Lives message. 

"We heard how powerful it can be to use small talk or to ask simple questions, in a calm manner. We also found reassuring results around teamwork and the fact that you don’t have to manage this alone – you could speak to a member of staff or call 999 in an emergency too.”

For more information and tips, people can visit or join the conversation on social media using #SmallTalkSavesLives.

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