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Small Talk is Big in the Southeast

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As Network Rail and the rest of the industry launch the Small Talk Saves Lives campaign to kerb suicide around the railways, there’s good news from the Southeast of England.

Three-quarters of respondents to a YouGov survey of the region say they have engaged in small talk with strangers since the pandemic began. Over one in ten said that, once restrictions were lifted, they wanted to strike up conversations even more.

Responding to questions devised by Samaritans, about four in ten said they had talked to neighbours they hadn’t spoken to before, and the same number said they had done so with people in the supermarket.

Rupert Lown, Network Rail.

Importantly, more than half of respondents said small talk can make people feel less lonely and almost that number said it boosted their own mental health and wellbeing.

Rupert Lown, chief health and safety officer at Network Rail, explained why they were working with the industry to launch Small Talk Saves Lives in an attempt to prevent suicides: “As lockdown restrictions lift, it’s essential that we continue to take care of ourselves and each other. That’s why we’re supporting Small Talk Saves Lives and encouraging passengers to join our staff to look out for someone who may be in emotional distress and start up a conversation.

“When you’ve initiated a conversation, listen to what they have to say and repeat it back to them to make them feel listened to and understood. Suicide is preventable, so let’s work together to start conversations and save lives.”

Julie Bentley, Samaritans.

Julie Bentley, Samaritans CEO, said: “We know that the pandemic has had a huge impact on the nation’s mental health and wellbeing and even though restrictions are lifting, people are still struggling. It’s so important we look out for one another now more than ever, because suicide is preventable and it’s everybody’s business.

“How people act when they are struggling to cope is different for everyone – people may seem distant or upset, but suicidal thoughts are often temporary – so if something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts and try and start a conversation. Whether that’s on a journey home from work as we start to travel more or someone you may pass in the street – any one of us could have an opportunity to save a life. Let’s start a conversation and work together to prevent suicide.”

The campaign reminds the public they already have the skills to start a conversation with someone who needs help, giving them the confidence to act. A little small talk and a simple question, such as “Hello, what’s the time?” can be all it takes to interrupt someone’s suicidal thoughts and help them begin to recover.

For every life lost on the railway, six are saved through intervention.

Samaritans run training courses to provide rail staff with the skills and confidence to recognise and support a potentially suicidal person on the network.

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