Campaign advocates talking about the weather to save lives

The British obsession with talking about the weather is being exploited in the latest stage of an award-winning suicide-prevention campaign by British Transport Police, Network Rail, Rail Delivery Group and Samaritans.

The latest iteration of the 'Small talk saves lives' campaign centres on talking about the weather to start a conversation
The latest iteration of the 'Small talk saves lives' campaign centres on talking about the weather to start a conversation

Every 36 hours someone takes their own life on a railway in the UK, and a new film made for the 'Small talk saves lives' campaign features a woman who manages to stop a man from attempting to do so.

The powerful film features a woman passing the time with various people by using the phrase "Can’t believe the weather…" as an ice-breaker.

It ends with her waiting for a train and noticing a man staring into space at the edge of the platform.

She goes to stand next to him, then says: "Can’t believe the weather…" before asking: "Is everything all right?"

The film ends with the man being persuaded to move away from the edge of the platform by the woman and a member of station staff.

The piece has had more than quarter of a million views, and thousands of engagements, since it was launched last week.

The latest stage of the campaign, by comms agency Pegasus, also features a station announcement recorded by TV presenter Gaby Roslin that is being broadcast in railway stations across the country until next Wednesday.

Other celebrities endorsing the campaign include TV presenters Zoe Ball and Holly Willoughby, and businessman Lord Sugar.

The film is being promoted across social-media channels, with media and influencers being targeted to drive awareness and engagement with the campaign, using #SmallTalkSavesLives.

Rail passengers are the target audience, with the key messages being that small talk can interrupt someone’s suicidal thoughts, that people should start a conversation with someone they think needs help, and that for every life lost on the railway, six are saved.

Responding to the new film, one user on Twitter, Soph, said:

The campaign has won numerous awards since it began last year, including Campaign of the Year at this year's Campaigns for Good Awards, run by PRWeek, Campaign and Third Sector.

New figures released by the campaign have resulted in widespread coverage, with broadcast pieces on BBC Breakfast news and articles in the Daily Mail, Evening Standard, Guardian, Metro, Mirror, and The Times.

Members of the public have intervened on 163 occasions to prevent people from taking their own lives in and around railways since the launch of the campaign late last year – a 20 per cent increase on the number of interventions the previous year.

The campaign also includes targeted media advertising in London newspaper the Metro, billboard advertising in suicide hotspots and in-station advertising across busy London stations.

Donna Mitchell, senior media campaigns manager at Network Rail, commented: "With this new creative, we’re moving the campaign on with the hope that it will encourage even more of us to get involved as we've all got the ability to make a difference."

She added: "The same small talk we use every day is enough to interrupt someone’s suicidal thoughts and encourage them to get help. We’re hoping that simple message will empower more members of the public to feel confident speaking up, and see more lives saved as a result."

The agency said it hoped to build on the success of last year's campaign.

Chris Webb, director of Pegasus, said: "It’s incredibly rewarding to work on a campaign that has the potential to make such a huge and meaningful impact. We hope this next phase of the campaign will emulate the success of the launch and help give people the confidence they need to potentially save a life."

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