– New Samaritans survey shows only half of the nation feel confident approaching someone they are concerned about in public.
– To boost public confidence and help them brush up on conversation starters, mental health advocate Gail Porter and Corrie newcomer and Samaritans volunteer, Channique Sterling-Brown, open Samaritans’ No Filter Café in Manchester Piccadilly station, as part of Samaritans’ latest Small Talk Saves Lives campaign in partnership with Network Rail, British Transport Police and the wider rail industry.
Samaritans’ Ambassador Gail Porter and Coronation Street newcomer and Samaritans volunteer Channique Sterling-Brown are reminding 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.
Both Gail and Channique are speaking out after new Samaritans research revealed that only 50% of UK adults said they would feel confident approaching and speaking to someone they don’t know if they were concerned about them in public. The survey also suggested that we’re more comfortable behind a screen as a nation, as people would much prefer chatting to someone they don’t know on the phone (33%) or by email (18%), compared to face-to-face (9%).
The top reasons holding back those who said they wouldn’t feel confident were ‘worrying the person wouldn’t welcome their approach’ (44%) and ‘worrying they’d make things worse’ (29%), whilst a quarter said ‘not knowing what to say’ was also a concern.
So, Samaritans is relaunching its Small Talk Saves Lives campaign today (21Feb), in partnership with Network Rail, British Transport Police and the wider rail industry, to empower the public to trust their instincts and start a conversation if they think someone needs help at railway stations and other public settings. The campaign 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.
Both Gail and Channique know how powerful talking can be. Gail has reached out to Samaritans’ helpline before and attributes talking helping her through tough times, whilst Channique, who plays Dee-Dee Bailey in Coronation Street has been a Samaritans listening volunteer for four years.
Recently, Channique put her skills into practice when she noticed someone that she thought needed help on her drive home from a Samaritans shift. She said: “I could see him in my rear-view mirror, and I just knew I had to double back and check if he was okay. Especially as I’d just finished a Samaritans shift – I thought ‘this is why we do it’. I got out the car and simply said ‘hey, are you okay?’. He said he was fine, but I asked again and said I wanted to check as it was super cold and dark, but he reassured me he was fine and thanked me for asking.
“Even though it was no more than that, I am so glad I made that decision and trusted my gut, because maybe it did interrupt a thought process and showed him that a random person cares. This campaign is so powerful as it’s about a basic understanding that as human beings a bit of compassion and connection can go so far, and you don’t need training for that. It’s about showing others that they’re not alone.”
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 and No Filter Café helps to build 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.”
You can watch the Small Talk Saves Lives video here.