How you can help

A little small talk can be all it takes to interrupt someone's suicidal thoughts and encourage them to get the help and support they need.

How somebody behaves when they're experiencing these thoughts is different for everyone. But here are some signs someone may be at risk.

Signs someone may need help

  • Looking distant, withdrawn or upset

  • Standing alone or in an isolated spot

  • Staying on the platform for long periods of time/failing to catch trains that stop

Perhaps someone just looks out of place, or 'something isn't quite right'. If you feel this way, trust your instincts and start a conversation.

“It’s a warm evening isn’t it?” - Used by Damon Lightwood to help save a woman’s life in Sussex.

What to say

Simply talking to someone and interrupting their thoughts may be all it takes to help encourage them to get support.

You might be concerned you will ‘make things worse’, but there’s no evidence that will happen. There’s no right or wrong approach here. Trust your instincts and remember that you chat with people every day. You may still be helping, even if you don’t get a response straight away.

Life-saving questions rail staff have used include:

  • It’s a warm evening isn’t it?

  • What train are you going to get?

  • What’s your name?

  • Do you need any help?

  • Are you okay?

If you don’t feel comfortable …

If you don’t feel it’s safe to make an approach or you don’t feel comfortable then speak to a passer-by, call 999 or if you’re at a station tell a member of staff or a fellow passenger. You could help save a life.

What next?

These simple steps will help guide you through the conversation. Think SAM.  

  • Start a conversation
    Small talk is a great start. You could then ask if they’re okay, introduce yourself and encourage them to talk. There may be some silences before they respond, but just try to be yourself.

  • Alert others
    You don’t need to manage on your own – get the attention of a member of staff (some of whom have been trained by Samaritans), ask a passer-by to alert somebody or call the police. Ask the person if there’s someone you can call for them.

  • Move them to safety
    Encourage them to sit down somewhere safe and quiet. Suggest a hot drink somewhere – this might be a place where there are members of rail staff around to support. You could mention sources of help, including Samaritans and their GP, as well as friends and family.

We don’t recommend that you make any physical contact. If the situation is an emergency (such as if someone is on the track), tell station staff or call 999 immediately. Do not go onto the railway line under any circumstances.

Looking after yourself

Your help can make a huge difference, but you might find it has an impact on you too, and you may feel emotional afterwards. Make sure you look after yourself. You might want to talk to someone about what’s happened. If you feel like you need some support you can speak to Samaritans by calling 116 123.

“I believe it is so important to interact with people, as a simple conversation could have a big impact.” Rizwan Javed helped save a women’s life on the railway.

If you’d like to know more

Here are some additional tips on starting a conversation and listening.

  • You don’t need to be an expert
    We all start conversations with the people around us every day. And your presence is valuable in showing someone they’re supported, so it doesn’t matter what you say.

  • Ask gentle questions
    Asking questions can help the other person feel in control. Try to avoid asking ‘why’ and instead keep things light, asking questions that help someone reconnect with the environment around them.

  • Be a good listener
    Repeating back what someone has told you will show that you’re listening. Be patient – it may take a while for someone to respond – and give them time to talk.  

But what if …”

You may still have some questions about starting a conversation. Maybe we can answer them here