Wigan Samaritans on track to pulling people back from suicide's brink

Samaritans at Wigan North Western
Samaritans at Wigan North Western

Small Talk Saves Lives is a nationwide campaign which encourages the public at railway stations to notice possible warning signs of folk in distress and to create conversation and so perhaps prevent a suicide.

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And volunteers from the organisation Samaritans were outside Wigan North Western this week promoting it and giving advice.

Linda Kellie, deputy director of volunteer support in Wigan, said: “We are not asking for anyone to become a train psychologist or counsellor, we just want to encourage a bit of conversation between people.

“Questions like ‘do you need any help’ and ‘what train are you getting today?’ can do more than you think.

“Someone could be in clear distress, crying or they may be walking up and down the platform near the edge. It may be that they haven’t got anything with them and they are gazing into the distance in their own world. It’s quite easy to ask someone if they are okay”.

Figures have shown that there has been a 20 per cent increase in the number of times passengers have acted to prevent suicide on Britain’s railways.

Data published by Network Rail showed 163 interventions made by members of the public between January and September compared with 136 in the same period in 2017.

“There is a potential that we can save lives by breaking the cycle when someone is going through a tough time,” Ms Kellie added.

Head of Suicide prevention at Network Rail, Ian Stevens, said: “Realising another person cares enough to stop and talk to you can make all the difference. It can be the first step on that road to recovery.”

The campaign emphasises that each of us has all the experience we need to help save a life.

Volunteer Tony Halsall said: “We want to raise awareness for the train staff too, they are on the front line and sometimes are in a better place to spot distress.

“There is no evidence to suggest that you can do any damage by having small talk, it is something people worry about, but they shouldn’t”.

Television and radio presenter Gaby Roslin has also featured in the campaign video after stopping to talk to someone when she noticed something was wrong.

She said: “Once you know that you have the power to make a difference, you are more likely to step in and do something”.

Anyone who wishes to contact Samaritans can do freely on 116 123 (UK) or call the Wigan branch on 01942 492 222. Alternatively they can email jo@samaritans.org.