Small Talk Saves Lives [Part 1] with Network Rail's Ian Stevens

Time To Talk With Alex Reads

By Alex Reads

Small Talk Saves Lives [Part 1] with Network Rail's Ian Stevens

Welcome to a new episode of Time To Talk with Alex Reads. I am your host Alex Reads, and I am bringing you mental health and emotional wellbeing content that I hope will be of some benefit to you, so I am glad to have you here with me!

This week is Mental Health Awareness week, and the theme this year is KINDNESS. I will be posting content throughout the week to support this, as I think we can always use a little room to be kinder in our lives.

In a three-part series, I have teamed up with Samaritans, Network Rail and Office of Rail and Road to bring to you some conversations about mental health in the context of suicide prevention on the Nation’s railways.

I am speaking to key players from mental health charity Samaritans, Network Rail and Office of Rail and Road in these first series of episodes to talk about their joint efforts with the Samaritan’s campaign ‘Small Talk Saves Lives’, a campaign.

Small Talk Saves Lives is a campaign to empower the public to act to prevent suicide on the railways and other settings. Suicide is preventable and suicidal thoughts are often temporary and can be interrupted. Samaritans want to give as many people as possible the skills to notice if someone might be at risk and give them the confidence to approach them. A simple question or observation can be all it takes to interrupt suicidal thoughts and start the journey to recovery. Throughout this campaign, Samaritans are reminding people that they already know how to start a conversation, giving them the confidence to act.

Research carried out jointly for Samaritans and the rail industry by the Universities of Middlesex and Westminster indicated that a ‘bystander’ campaign could be valuable as the public has a role to play in suicide prevention on the railways.

And so, the partnership with British Transport Police, Network Rail and the wider rail industry to develop the campaign has been beneficial. They train thousands of rail staff in suicide prevention every year. Many of them go on to make an intervention and save a life. We encourage staff to notice if someone may be at risk and then start a conversation by asking a simple question, so making small talk.

We have also consulted individuals who have experienced suicidal thoughts, those who have lost loved ones to suicide, people who regularly travel by train, and the general public. We wanted to make sure we considered a range of experiences when developing the campaign.

An example of the importance of our campaign is Sarah's story. A stranger on a train platform helped stop Sarah from taking her own life. With Sarah's permission, we used her story to develop the first phase of the campaign and show others how small talk saved her life.


Ian has worked in the rail industry for 33 years. He is a seasoned and experienced frontline operator.

In September 2012 he became Network Rail’s lead for its suicide prevention programme.

At a working level, he brings the rail industry together to deliver its suicide prevention programme.

Ian has presented around the world on the challenge suicide presents to the railway. He is a regular figure in Parliament, and on committees and groups where an intimate knowledge of suicide prevention in public spaces is required.

Delivered a public-facing bystander campaign in collaboration with Samaritans and the British Transport Police known as Small Talk Saves Lives.

In June 2018 Ian was honoured by the Queen with an MBE for his work in this field.

Drop me an email:
Small Talk Saves Lives [Part 1] with Network Rail's Ian Stevens
Small Talk Saves Lives [Part 1] with Network Rail's Ian Stevens
Time To Talk With Alex Reads