Network Rail joins Samaritans to remind public that small talk can be lifesaving: Small Talk Saves Lives-11

Tuesday 21 Feb 2023

Network Rail joins Samaritans to remind public that small talk can be lifesaving

Region & Route:
  • Samaritans survey shows only half of the nation feel confident approaching someone they are concerned about in public
  • Network Rail teams up with Samaritans, British Transport Police and the wider rail industry for Small Talk Saves Lives - empowering the public to act if they see someone who needs help by starting a conversation
  • New campaign film reassures the public that a little small talk like ‘where can I get a coffee?’ can set someone on a path to recovery

Network Rail has joined Samaritans, British Transport Police and the wider rail industry 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.

The 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 Small Talk Saves Lives 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.

Over the coming weeks Samaritans volunteers across the country will be hosting outreach events in stations around the network, speaking to passengers about the importance of small talk 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.”

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: “Everybody who uses the railway, passengers or staff, has the skills to be a life saver. Small Talk Saves Lives is about reminding us all that a little conversation can go a long way to help someone in crisis and divert their thoughts from suicide. I am ever so proud of our relationship with Samaritans and British Transport Police, and hope this next stage of the campaign helps educate more people on how they can potentially save a life.” 

British Transport Police ACC Charlie Doyle, national strategic policing lead for suicide prevention, said: “Together with rail staff and members of the public, our officers continue to look out for vulnerable people and save lives. We know from experience that when someone is in distress, engaging them in conversation can make all the difference in that moment. If people don’t feel comfortable or safe to intervene, they can always tell a member of rail staff or a police officer, text British Transport Police on 61016 or call 999.”

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


Notes to Editors

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 press pack is available at
  • On Tuesday 21 February, Samaritans will open the No Filter Café, in Manchester Piccadilly station – a coffee shop powered by a good chat. Open to the public for one day only, the café with a twist will ask rail users to pay for their morning macchiato or lunchtime latte by simply practising their small talk skills – aiming to highlight the power of human connection and conversation which could save a life
  • Launched in 2017, Small Talk Saves Lives was developed after research from Middlesex University showed the positive part the public could play in suicide prevention. The campaign is supported by suicide prevention expert Dr Lisa Marzano from Middlesex University
  • 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 Suicide and Rail 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

Contact information

Passengers / community members
Network Rail national helpline
03457 11 41 41

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Charlie Oven
Senior media relations manager, campaigns
Network Rail

About Network Rail

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