Stratford-upon-Avon is a town that is all about words, the plays and sonnets of the country’s most famous writer.

But can it also be a town about far more simple but no less remarkable words – the words to tell someone that you’re not OK?

On Monday 19th February at 10am at Cafe Lomas at Stratford Hospital,  Stratford Samaritans is launching a campaign to make the home of the Bard the UK’s first #ListeningTown, a place where it is OK to say you’re are not OK. Stratford Mayor, Victoria Alcock will be joining the charity’s outreach team of volunteers to launch the Campaign.

The #ListeningTown Campaign will share the Samaritans five listening tips – known as SHUSH – with people in businesses, charities, local agencies, shops, supermarkets, schools and, of course, theatres across the town. As partners in the Warwickshire Suicide Prevention Strategy, launched in November 2016, the charity’s volunteers wants to reach as many people with the message that we can all make a difference and reduce the devastating impact of death by suicide.

Ali Berkley, the Branch’s Deputy Director for Outreach:

As a Samaritans volunteer, I have experienced the power of listening, really listening to people share their thoughts and feelings. The #ListeningTown Campaign is about encouraging us all to listen to the really important things our friends, family and colleagues need to tell us. When people feel listened to, it can save a life. And the opportunity to be a good listener can come at any time – when you are waiting for a bus, queuing in the supermarket, filling up at the petrol station or nipping out to get your lunch. We can all become better listeners with our SHUSH listening tips and make Stratford a #ListeningTown.

The launch co-incides with our newest outreach activity, a drop-in at the newly opened Stratford Hospital. We have been working at Warwick Hospital for more than 20 years and know how much parents and staff value being able to talk to someone. We will be at Cafe Lomas, the Health and Wellbeing Hub, every Monday from 10am to 1pm. While the #ListeningTown Campaign is aimed at everyone, we will be targeting groups at greatest risk including young people, men, people with mental health challenges, those recovering from addiction and people in housing crisis. 

The SHUSH Listening tips are easy to follow:

#1 Show you care #2 Have patience #3 Use open questions #4 Say it back #Have courage

Less than a third of people who take their own lives have recently visited a mental health service so, if we want to reduce deaths by suicide, we need to look at other ways of reaching the most vulnerable people in society.

The Campaign, funded by a grant from Stratford Town Trust, has two parts. The first is to recruit and train more volunteers so that the charity can build a larger outreach team able to respond to the growing demand for talks and workshops in schools, workplaces, charities, local agencies and the wider community. The second is the ongoing promotion of the SHUSH listening tips across the town to people of all ages and abilities, from primary schools to residential care settings to create a community of “good listeners” with the skills and confidence to ask people if they are OK.

Rachel Jones, Head of Community Engagement at Stratford Town Trust

Talking about our emotional health is becoming easier, thanks to the work of mental health charities and high-profile campaigns including Heads Together, but we know that too many people still feel that they can’t tell anyone that they are struggling. Stratford Samaritans #ListeningTown Campaign offers a simple, practical way of tackling this issue head on by making us all better listeners. 

Interested in being part of #ListeningTown? Show your support for the campaign as well as getting reminders about how to be a good listener by following @ListeningTown on Twitter and Instagram. To find out anything else about Stratford Samaritans please email

Notes to Editors:

1 Stratford-upon-Avon Samaritans is a small independent charity that has been serving the communities of Stratford, Warwick, Leamington and the Cotswolds for more than 25 years. It provides phone, text, email and face to face support for people in distress, 365 days of the year. It’s services are provided entirely by a team of 90 volunteers at a cost of just £25,000 a year. It is affiliated with the national charity, Samatitans, but has to raise its own costs each year through fundraising activities. For more information contact Rachel Key 07711 981699.

2 Stratford Town Trust is a grant-giving charity, dedicated to supporting local people and community projects.  It provides funding for activities which improve the quality of life for the people living in the town. Since 2001, more than £25million has been distributed. More online –