Posted: Mon 26th Feb 2024

Small Talk Saves Lives: Samaritans launch campaign as many admit to dodging conversations

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

New findings released by Samaritans reveal around half of adults in Wales avoid engaging with someone they don’t know to avoid small talk – whilst around one in five are worried they would say the wrong thing when engaging with someone.

But suicide prevention charity Samaritans says we are all better at small talk than we think and “we know small talk can save lives.”

Although 94% of people say they don’t have a go-to question to start small talk, 75% have used small talk in their personal lives over the past month, and over half (58%) often or always use small talk in their professional lives too.

A new campaign delivered in partnership with Network Rail, British Transport Police, and the wider rail industry, called ‘Small Talk Saves Lives’ empowers the public to trust their instincts and start a conversation if they think someone needs help in railway stations and other public settings.

Samaritans Cymru said the campaign “reassures the public that a little small talk like ‘do you know where I can grab a cuppa?’ can be all it takes to interrupt someone’s suicidal thoughts and could help set them on the journey to recovery.”

“People might worry that they will say the wrong thing, but saying something is better than saying nothing.”

With one in three (31%) confessing to not knowing what to say to initiate conversation through small talk, the charity is calling on people across Wales to give it a go, as a simple comment about the weather could be all it takes to save someone’s life.

Bessie knows how powerful small talk can be. Whilst working as a train guard, she spotted someone in need of help.

She said: “Just that one little bit of positive small talk can go so far. They caught my eye because it was a lot of, flitting around, looking around, looking at their phone.Deep down, you have got all that adrenaline going and you’re thinking, ‘what should I say?’ I had found something about what they were wearing, and it was a case of just going over and saying, “Oh, my goodness, I absolutely love what you’re wearing. Where have you got that from?” It was just a short, sharp answer of “I don’t know.” That’s when you can kind of edge your way in to say, “Are you okay?”. Just that one little bit of positive small talk and it can go so far. It was a positive outcome. Take that chance because it is the most important and pivotal thing you could do.”

Neil Ingham, Executive Director for Wales, said:  “As revealed in our latest findings, it’s concerning to learn that nearly half of adults in Wales shy away from engaging with strangers to avoid small talk, with a significant portion worried about saying the wrong thing. However, our Small Talks Saves Lives campaign underscores the importance of these seemingly trivial conversations. We firmly believe that small talk has the potential to be a powerful tool in suicide prevention. By encouraging simple interactions and equipping individuals with the confidence to engage, we can foster supportive communities where everyone feels valued and understood. Together, let’s harness the underestimated power of small talk to make a difference in the lives of those around us.”

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said:  “The Small Talk Saves Lives campaign has shown us how we each have the skills to genuinely help someone in distress. I am ever so proud of our relationship with Samaritans and British Transport Police and hope this next stage of the campaign continues to help educate and inform people that small talk can be lifesaving.”

British Transport Police Assistant Chief Constable, Paul Furnell said: “We remain committed to protecting vulnerable people across the network. Our experience tells us that engaging in conversation at the right time can make all the difference. This campaign continues to encourage us all to try a little small talk, but if you don’t feel comfortable or safe to intervene, tell a member of rail staff or a police officer. You can text British Transport Police on 61016 or call 999.”

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