Monthly Archives: November 2017

Ellen Townsend: Small talk saves lives

It sounds much too simple doesn’t it?  Making small talk could save a life.  But the truth is, it really could.  Today SHRG is supporting the campaign launched by the Samaritans. They are asking us all to be courageous and strike up a conversation with someone if we are worried about them at a railway station. MAKE SMALL TALK AND YOU COULD SAVE A LIFE is a new campaign that encourages public to intervene to help prevent railway suicides.  The Samaritans note that for each life lost on the railways, 6 are saved by life saving interventions.  You can find out more about the campaign here: and here

You can hear me speak to Andy and Sarah on BBC Radio Nottingham about the campaign here (The piece starts at 2:08:00 with my bit at 2:10:17)

The myth that work like this will help to dispel is that suicide is not preventable – it is and right up until the last moment.  Johnny Benjamin was brought back from the brink of a suicide attempt by a caring stranger (Neil Laybourn) who he managed to track down through the incredible ‘Find Mike’ campaign so he could thank him for saving his life

Kevin Hines, who survived a serious suicide attempt, maintains that he felt he could have been diverted from his attempt if just one person had asked him ‘Hey kid, are you OK?’

Dr Christabel Owens from the University of Exeter has produced a great leaflet to help get people talking about suicide if you are worried about someone, which you can access here:

So let’s all be courageous.  You won’t make things worse.  Start a conversation and save a life.

This post first appeared on the Self Harm Research Page .

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Ellen Townsend is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Nottingham, a fellow of the Institute of Mental Health and a visiting fellow of the University of Melbourne. Ellen is the director leading the Self-Harm Research Group.  

You can follow updates about Professor Ellen Townsends work on Twitter:  @SelfHarmNotts 


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Theodore Stickley: Singing for Enjoyment, Mental Health and Well-Being. The Nottingham People’s Choir

Funded by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), the Nottingham People’s Choir was formed in 2013 as an initiative to promote mental health. It is not a condition of Choir membership that people have used mental health services, yet recruitment of members takes place within a local NHS mental health trust. The group, located in Nottingham, is facilitated by a professional choir leader who is experienced in working with people with mental health problems with the support of a mental health nurse.

The Choir meets weekly during school term-times; it meets during the day time as there are a number of community choirs meeting locally in the evenings. It was thought that meeting during the day, would enable people who do not work to attend and during school term-time to enable parents to attend. The venue is provided pro bono by the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall in the city centre by an arrangement with the local authority. The Choir has a steering group that comprises mainly Choir members with representatives from the local authority, the venue, the IMH, and the local NHS trust.

Participation in arts-based community activities has been reported to improve health and well-being for the past 30 years. There is a growing body of evidence to support community singing for health and well-being outcomes. In an international study, researchers report that from a sample of 1,124 choral singers, the majority claimed positive psychological benefits.

We conducted a qualitative study of 10 choir members and it became clear that participation in the Choir has a significant effect on the health and well-being of the individuals. Each participant described many positive experiences from their attendance. These were classified into five themes which are: social benefits, health benefits, accomplishments, personal benefits, and enjoyment.


Participants reported improvements in social experiences, health benefits, accomplishments, personal benefits and increased joy in their lives.

  • ‘There’s honesty and openness I think because you’re all in the same boat in a way. We’re quite supportive of each other and share difficulties.’ – Maria 
  • ‘It’s a big distraction because you can be focused…Improving your concentration and your memory about what you’ve learned.’ – Violet
  • ‘In some ways I treat the choir, even though its not part of recovery college, I would treat it as another class because it does give you hope and opportunity.’ – Duncan
  • ‘We’ve sung in different venues and they’re probably places that I couldn’t have ventured out into before that. I suppose in an evening as well, so that’ gave me more confidence to push myself.’ –Isaac
  • ‘It’s a bit like taking medicine I suppose. Yeah, it’s definitely got that feel good factor. You just feel uplifted. It doesn’t matter what you’ve sung. It’s just that process of singing.’ – Isaac
  • I think it’s been really beneficial for me in so many ways. I mean I’ve been here and I’ve felt quite ill, I’ve had occasions where I’ve not been too well but I still keep coming but it always lifts me.’ –Maria
  • ‘Well it’s been a total joy, it’s a fun thing and friendly. Very, very friendly. I just enjoy it immensely…It’s just what I needed’ – Paula
  • ‘I moved heaven and earth to get here with my Mum because it’s such a life-enhancing experience, especially for her. To be honest if it was at two o’clock in the morning I’ll make an effort to come.’ – Sadie

Participants reported improvements in social experiences, health benefits, accomplishments, personal benefits and increased joy in their lives. Participants have expressed how the Choir has had significant improvements in their mental health, physical health, and well-being and has helped some members recover from being in ‘dark places’. Given the extremely low cost of running a choir such as this, it makes the potential to set up such an enterprise easily achievable within either statutory health or social care, or in the voluntary sector.

For the full research report, please see:

Plumb, L., & Stickley, T. (2017). Singing to promote mental health and well-being. Mental Health Practice20(8), 31–36.

This post first appeared on PsychReg

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Associate Professor Theodore Stickley is the Academic Lead for Public Engagement and Associate Professor of Mental Health at the Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham. He led on the ESRC-funded seminar series for arts, health and well-being. This development has led to the formation of the Special Interest Group at the Royal Society for Public Health.

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