The casual chat that could save a life

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Railway passengers could save “many” lives a year, according to ScotRail - if only they knew how and when to act when someone is in mortal danger.

Small Talk Saves Lives is a new campaign is part of a wider bid to tackle the appalling toll of needless death represented by suicides on the railway.

It is being launched jointly by the Samaritans, the British Transport Police, and train companies all across Britain.

A promotional video that goes with the campaign is based on the true story of a woman who felt suicidal and planned to take her life on the railway - but ultimately did not, as somebody reached out to her.

In the clip, unsuspecting customers on a station platform initially think a station announcer is warning them of delays due to a suicide on the line, only to find out that they are listening to a story of hope and recovery, told by the woman herself.

Small Talk Saves Lives aims to give travellers the confidence to act if they notice someone who may be at risk of suicide on or around the rail network.

It draws on insights from successful interventions made by some of the 16,000 rail staff and British Transport Police officers who’ve been trained by the Samaritans in suicide prevention. For each life lost on the railway, six are said to be saved.

One west of Scotland rail worker with personal experience of the subject, said of a man she was worried about: “When I first approached him, he was quiet and wouldn’t speak.

“I told him my name, but didn’t tell him I was a member of staff to make sure I didn’t worry him.

“He was very distressed and once he started talking, he spoke really quickly.

“He told me that the only way out for him was to take his life.

“I was able to signal to an oncoming train to slow down and walked to the driver and told him about the situation. I went back to the young man and continued to talk to him.

“He felt so down that he believed that everyone would be better off if he wasn’t here.”

Susan was able to contact the police, who took the young man into their care.

The campaign has the backing of the leading suicide prevention expert Professor Rory O’Connor from the University of Glasgow, who said: “I am pleased to support Samaritans’ new campaign, Small Talk Saves Lives.

“It aims to tackle one of the myths around suicide and its prevention: namely, that there is nothing we can do to prevent suicide.

“There is, and we all have a role to play.

“It is great to see this campaign encouraging people to reach out if they think someone may be suicidal. It could save lives.”