OREANDA-NEWS. Network Rail’s leadership team in Swindon has marked national Mental Health Awareness Week by signing a pledge with the charity, Mind, to raise awareness of mental health issues in the workplace and encourage all those affected to seek help.

With one in four people in the UK experiencing a mental health condition, the company is keen to break down the stigma associated with mental health, and ensure its employees have the support and training they need to recognise when colleagues may be suffering in silence and the positive steps they can take to help them.

Mark Langman, Network Rail’s managing director for the Western route, said: “Mental health is a subject that is hard to talk about at the best of times, let alone in the rail industry that has traditionally had a macho culture. That culture is changing, but there is still more we can do which is why this pledge is so important. Only by committing to raising awareness of these issues and encouraging our staff to speak out, can we ensure those affected receive the help and support they need.”

The signing of the pledge today (Thursday 19 May) formed a key part of a wider mental health awareness day that included an inspirational talk from Olympic triple jumper, Nathan Douglas. Nathan talked about the difficulties he experienced in finding a work-life balance and techniques to help achieve this.

Also in attendance were representatives from a number of organisations and companies who spoke about what it means to live with a mental health condition and the support services that are available. Those represented included Samaritans; Sandalwood Court in Swindon; Swindon Mind; Service User Network Swindon (SUNS), an independent charity run by mental health service users; the rail chaplaincy service; Seven Futures, a company Network Rail is using to train its employees in the principles of rest, resilience and recovery; and Validium, the company employed by Network Rail to provide support services for its staff.

Over 100 Network Rail employees attended the day and plans are already under way to hold similar events across the Western route. This route runs from London Paddington to Penzance, through Bristol and onto Pilning, up to the boundaries with Wales, Worcester and Basingstoke.

Mark continued: “Today was very successful in raising awareness, but signing a pledge is only the first step. As an equal opportunities employer, all of us at Network Rail have a duty to ensure no-one suffers in silence. That’s why we’ll not only be continuing our programme of awareness raising events, but we will also be putting in place training for our managers so they are able to spot the warning signs and understand the adjustments that can be made for those experiencing mental health conditions.”

Dr Donna Lovell, acting CEO of Swindon Mind, said: “It is great that more people are now talking about mental health and wellbeing, conversations are being started and this helps to break down any stigma associated with mental health.

“Poor mental health is now the number one reason for staff absence so it makes sense that managers have training in mental health awareness and how to spot signs that an employee is struggling and might need support. Swindon Mind is getting more and more requests from employers for mental health awareness and this is a step in the right direction.  I am very pleased to be signing the pledge at Network Rail today on behalf of Swindon Mind during Mental Health Awareness Week”. 

At a national level, Network Rail has entered a coalition with other transport organisations and the emergency services to tackle suicide, which is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK.

The purpose of the coalition is to pool members' substantial expertise in dealing with suicide at first hand to develop a resource which helps men identify and support others, and themselves, when down, depressed or suicidal.

About Network Rail

Network Rail owns, manages and develops Britain's railway - the 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts, and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations (the largest of which we also run). In partnership with train operators we help people take more than 1.6bn journeys by rail every year - double the number of 1996 - and move hundreds of millions of tonnes of freight, saving almost 8m lorry journeys. We're spending £40bn on the railway between 2014-19 and our Railway Upgrade Plan will deliver more frequent, more reliable, safer services and brighter and better stations.