Samaritans volunteers joined Network Rail and train operating company staff on January 17 to hold the first ‘Brew Monday’ station outreach events in two years.
The events are timed to coincide with the third Monday in January, supposedly the most difficult day of the year for mental health issues. And there was a welcome return to station concourses, with the events having been virtual in 2021 due to pandemic restrictions.
Launched at London Waterloo station, Brew Monday events took place right across the network with larger awareness events at Waterloo, Stevenage and Liverpool Lime Street.
Other stations to host smaller events included Cambridge, Swindon, Truro, Preston, Stockport, Birmingham New Street and Grimsby.
Hundreds of Samaritans volunteers were on hand to offer teabags, tips on how to become a better listener, emotional support to those using the rail network, and a reminder to check in on family, friends and colleagues. Hot drinks were also provided free of charge for the day on TransPennine Express services.
To help inspire staff and passengers as the pandemic continues, artwork from Britain’s Got Talent contestant Nathan Wyburn, illustrator and author James Norbury, and contemporary wellbeing artist Emelie Hryhoruk was featured on digital screens at Network Rail-managed stations.
Norbury, a former Samaritans volunteer, recently published his first illustrated book Big Panda & Tiny Dragon, to share ideas that helped him through difficult times. His Brew Monday illustration (pictured) includes a heartfelt message that reads: “Life is like a pot of tea… Share it if you can.”
Samaritans CEO Julie Bentley said: “We’re so grateful to the rail industry for their support of Brew Monday again this year. Throughout the various lockdowns and restrictions, the pandemic has shown us that staying connected with others has been a vital part of getting people through difficult times.
“We know the impact talking and listening can have. A cup of tea and a chat won’t solve everything, but it can be a start. You don’t have to have all the answers or solutions, you just need to listen and start a conversation which could just be the support that someone needs.”
NR Chief Executive Andrew Haines added: “Every one of us has the skills to help someone in need and Brew Monday is a powerful reminder of the simple steps we can take. I am really pleased we are once again able to join Samaritans in our stations, to reach out to commuters and those who could be struggling with their mental health.”
The Brew Monday initiative forms part of the rail industry’s suicide prevention programme, in which more than 24,000 rail and British Transport Police staff have been trained by Samaritans to look out for vulnerable passengers and make interventions.