By Andy Hirst, Special Correspondent
A Huddersfield railway worker’s training to prevent suicide helped to save a woman in severe distress.
Sheila Anderson works for TransPennine Express and had done some training with the Samaritans which gave her the confidence to talk to the woman.
The Samaritans have just relaunched their Small Talk Saves Lives campaign which is designed to give people the confidence to trust their own instincts and, like Sheila, act if they see someone who needs help by starting a conversation.
Sheila, a learning and development administrator for TransPennine Express, said: “I was on the way to my weekly shop when I came across a young woman in floods of tears. Something inside me told me something was wrong so I stopped the car and slowly approached her.
“I asked “has something happened to bring you here today?” and could tell that instantly broke her thoughts. She told me her name and said she was struggling to cope as she wasn’t able to get the support she needed.
“I then encouraged her to move to somewhere quieter to get her to a safer place and she asked me to call the hospital she was at. Another woman stopped and kindly offered to help.
“She hugged the young lady and made small talk while I arranged for an ambulance. Afterwards I carried on to the supermarket where I sat in my car and cried. It was a very emotional experience, but I was so pleased to have been able to help her.
“I have since helped another young woman on a train too who was agitated and panicked on the way to her mum’s. I overheard her on phone saying “I’m on the train now, but I would have done something.”
Straight away I thought the worst and instantly started talking to her. I spoke to her auntie on the phone and ended up taking her all the way to change trains and bought her a meal deal as she hadn’t eaten. Once I knew she was safe I got the return train back to my car. I was just so thankful she was OK and that my instincts had kicked in again. I did all I could do.”
Sheila added: “I’d encourage everyone, if they see someone who needs help, just say anything – anything that’s going to break that cycle of thought.
“Even though I was lucky enough to have Samaritans’ training in the rail industry, I think I’m quite an observant and caring person and since that experience I’m even more hyper-sensitive and would do the same again in a heartbeat.”
Olly Glover, head of safety, health and environment for Network Rail’s North and East route, said: “At Network Rail we’re committed to doing all we can to reduce the number of suicides which is why we work with the Samaritans to train railway colleagues in managing this sensitive and vital issue.
“We’re proud to be supporting Small Talk Saves Lives and encourage passengers to join our staff to look out for someone who may be in emotional distress and start up a conversation. Suicide is preventable, so let’s work together to start conversations and save lives.”
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The campaign is a reminder that, like Sheila, everyone has the skills to start a conversation with someone who needs help. By trusting our instincts, if something doesn’t feel right, 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 and help start them on the journey to recovery. It could save a life.
Find out more about Small Talk Saves Lives at www.samaritans.org/smalltalksaveslives or join the conversation on social media using #SmallTalkSavesLives.
* Written by former Huddersfield Examiner Head of Content ANDY HIRST who now runs his own Huddersfield-based agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting for business in Yorkshire and across the UK.