Research by Samaritans shows less than half the people in Southampton feel confident approaching someone they think could be vulnerable. Could you make small talk and save a life?: Small Talk Saves Lives video screenshot 2

Wednesday 22 Feb 2023

Research by Samaritans shows less than half the people in Southampton feel confident approaching someone they think could be vulnerable. Could you make small talk and save a life?

Region & Route:
Southern: Wessex
| Southern
  • Samaritans survey shows just 48% of people in Southampton (47% in London and 53% in the wider South East) feel confident approaching someone they feel could be vulnerable
  • Network Rail Southern region 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.

Network Rail Southern region, which manages the railways from London Waterloo, London Victoria, Charing Cross and London Bridge, employs professional welfare officers at some stations across the network.

In the region, Wessex Route, which manages the railway to Southampton, has over 60 full-time welfare staff based at stations and trained to watch for people who may be vulnerable, and how to strike up a conversation.

But they can’t be everywhere and a campaign has been launched after new research from Samaritans revealed that only 48.31% of Southampton adults said they would feel confident approaching and speaking to someone they don’t know if they were concerned about them in public. The wider South East was a more confident place, with 53.14% of respondents saying they would be happy to talk to someone.

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% in Southampton, 37% in London and 44% in the South East) and ‘wouldn’t know what to say’ , which was 18% in Southampton, 18% in London and 25.9% in the South East.

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.

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.”

Network Rail Southern region managing director Ellie Burrows said: “Small Talk really does save lives and we need everyone’s help to be watchful and understanding of the most vulnerable people in our society. Our professional welfare team are trained to make that first contact and we know it can be tough for ordinary passengers to take themselves out of their bubble and say hello. But that can be all it takes to change someone’s life forever. We’ve got a series of events at stations across our region so if you are able to stop and learn more from the Samaritans volunteers about taking that first step… please do.”

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.”

Over the coming weeks Samaritans volunteers across the region 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.

In Wessex Route (which operates from Waterloo to the South): Clapham Junction, Basingstoke, Guildford, Southampton, Winchester and Woking.

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
  • 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 Suicidand 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
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Latest travel advice
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Network Rail press office - Chris Denham
Senior media relations manager
020 3357 7969
07515 626530

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