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‘It’s just interaction and showing you care’: How a casual chat with a stranger could help save their life

Written by on 02/08/2021

A charity has relaunched a campaign encouraging people to engage in small talk to help try to prevent suicide. 

Samaritans hopes the latest stage of its Small Talk Saves Lives campaign will help give people the confidence to strike up conversations with strangers who may need help.

The charity says a little small talk and a simple question, such as “hello, what’s the time?” can be all it takes to interrupt someone’s suicidal thoughts.

Network Rail, British Transport Police and the wider rail industry are working in partnership with Samaritans as part of the campaign which focuses on the prevention of suicide on railways.

Dom Mottram believes a stranger saved his life after stopping to chat with him whilst he was having suicidal thoughts
Image: Dom Mottram believes a stranger saved his life after stopping to chat with him whilst he was having suicidal thoughts

In 2008, Network Rail employee Dom Mottram was 19 and struggling with his mental health after a stressful time at university when a stranger “saved” his life.

He said: “I was dropped off at a train station after going back to university, having had quite a tough time of it, I felt the only way out was to end my life.

“Fortunately there was a woman on the platform that approached me, reached out and made some small talk and said ‘are you ok, are you waiting for a train’.

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“As with a lot of people that immediately snaps you out of that mindset in that moment of wanting to harm yourself. So as far as I’m concerned that woman that day saved my life.”

“It was just that interaction. We’ve found scientifically and me personally since that’s all it takes. It is just that interaction and showing that you care and reaching out,” he added.

“It doesn’t have to be a big intervention, you don’t have to be specifically trained, you just have to spark up a conversation with people.”

The campaign launch comes after a recent YouGov poll found three quarters of UK adults (78%) used small talk during the pandemic.

Almost one in five (19%) said they are more likely to want to make small talk with a stranger face to face once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, with 71% of people stating weather still remains the go-to subject for striking up conversation.

The survey also found just over half (51%) of those who are more likely to want to make small talk said it was because they now recognise the importance of human connection and with 39% of respondents saying they also appreciate the sense of community the pandemic brought out in people.

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK

 Sky News

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