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Big moments from small talk

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We all engage in small talk on a daily basis with friends and work colleagues. We talk about our weekends, families and, best of all, the weather.

We’re surrounded by small talk everywhere we go but, for some bizarre reason, station platforms and train carriages can be some of the quietest places in the country. It’s somewhat ironic that this is an environment where a little bit of small talk could potentially be so important.

“We want to promote the importance of simple conversations and how it could actually save a life,” said David Masters, project officer and communications lead for Samaritans’ suicide prevention partnership with the rail industry.

Small Talk Saves Lives

In November 2017, Samaritans launched the Small Talk Saves Lives rail suicide prevention campaign (#SmallTalkSavesLives) – a joint initiative with the British Transport Police (BTP), Network Rail and the wider industry to encourage members of the public to take action if they see someone they’re concerned about on the railway.

Around five per cent of all suicides in Great Britain occur on the railway. Between 2016 and 2017, there were 273 suicides on the London Underground and mainline rail network.

The campaign has reached more than 17 million people on social media and its video has been viewed by more than 5.7 million people.

As well as its public awareness campaigns, Samaritans delivers training and support services to rail staff around the country. Its Managing Suicidal Contacts course, which aims to give staff the confidence and skills required to make interventions, has trained more than 16,000 members of staff and BTP officers across the railway and its post-incident support service has helped many more who have been affected by a traumatic incident.

Samaritans is sponsoring the RailStaff Awards Lifesaver Award for the seventh year in a row this year. Since 2012, the RailStaff Awards has been recognising those who have made a lifesaving intervention. The nominations often tell the stories of railway staff and BTP officers who have either prevented someone from taking their own life or who have come to the aid of a passenger in medical distress.

David said that although the charity is constantly recognising the contributions of those who help prevent people from taking their own lives, the RailStaff Awards provides a platform to bring these stories to the attention of their industry colleagues.

“Samaritans on behalf of the Rail Industry Suicide Stakeholder Group (RISSG) provide commendation letters and badges throughout the year to staff who take potentially lifesaving action to help someone in need on the railway. The Samaritans Lifesaver Award is a great way of raising awareness and celebrating these actions with the whole industry watching.”

Acts of compassion

The 2017 Lifesaver Award was won by Land Sheriffs Tek Malla and Purna Gurung (Pictured). The two men were recognised for supporting a man at risk of suicide in Sussex, where their professional and sensitive approach helped to save a life.

David said: “The BTP reported over 1,500 lifesaving interventions on the rail network in 2017/18 made by rail staff, police and members of the public which clearly shows that suicides are preventable and a simple conversation can sometimes be all that is needed.”

If you know someone who has made a lifesaving intervention on the railway, visit www.railstaffawards.com/event/2018/nominate and put them forward for the 2018 RailStaff Awards.

For more information about Samaritans’ intervention commendation letters, please email [email protected].

Read more: The RailStaff Awards: a spectacle with no shortage of inspiring characters