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RSSB’s approach for mental health awareness week

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One in six employees experience a mental health problem at any given time. RSSB recognises its responsibility to create a workplace where people don’t just survive, they thrive.

Work can be protective of our mental health, but difficulties at work can also be a trigger for mental ill health. As an employer and service provider, RSSB can impact not only its staff but also the staff of its 83 members.

Bringing mental health to the forefront of the workplace agenda provides an opportunity for significant gains to be made in reducing absenteeism, presenteeism, and improving overall productivity. A review by Deloitte on the return on investing in mental health in the workplace demonstrated an average return of £4.20 for every £1 spent.

Time to Change

At RSSB, we want to walk the talk when it comes to mental wellbeing in the workplace. In October 2016, we signed up to the Time to Change campaign. Time to Change aims to change how we think and act about mental health problems, reducing mental health stigma and increasing opportunities to talk. Hundreds of employers across the UK have now taken the pledge.

Since signing the pledge, we have seen RSSB staff share their experiences of mental health, including the senior leadership team. Mental health is gradually becoming interwoven into the existing structures of RSSB. You are just as likely to find a blog post about mental health on the intranet as you are to find one about organisational change.

Pushing forward the mental health agenda is slow, but gradual consistent changes add up. We have mental health champions within RSSB and are aiming to grow the number of trained champions. We have a mental health focus group which consists of staff across all levels of the organisation.

RSSB actively promotes key dates such as World Mental Health Day and Time to Talk day. One of the first steps to managing our mental health is understanding it. RSSB is launching some new downloadable materials designed to help members address mental health, including signposts to support and myth-busting.

The research has long established how having a healthy body, can help promote a healthy mind. RSSB strives to provide staff with information and resources to support exercise, diet, and sleep. Often when you get your body working well, the mind follows.

Having a culture of compassion and support will help a lot of people through difficult times. For those who are experiencing difficulties that require more targeted support, RSSB has an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) service, as well as a health insurance package that can cover specialist support for mental health difficulties.

While we have taken some steps forward, we recognise that we still have a lot of work to do. Moving forward, we are reviewing our policies to ensure they are supportive of people’s mental health. We recognise that how people are managed is one of the most powerful factors in managing mental health in the workplace. For example, a change in how a person’s performance or sickness is managed can make a huge difference on a human level, as well as to the company’s bottom line.

Industry leader

As a leader within the rail industry, we aim to pilot initiatives, where appropriate, within RSSB. Through this process, we can share our reflections and make meaningful recommendations within the industry.

We are actively encouraging members to follow our lead and sign up to the Time to Change campaign. The campaign action plan provides an excellent framework to support companies in making tangible changes in the way mental health is approached. By engaging with Time to Change, members are not only part of a network of rail companies opening up the conversation around mental health, but they are part of a much wider community in the UK from which encouragement and guidance is available.

RSSB aims to supplement what is possible through Time to Change with industry specific resources, from tools for line managers, to policy and best practice guidance. Most importantly, we hope to provide rail companies with a support network and professional consultation to manage issues unique to the industry. There is a vast amount of expertise in the industry around the challenges with mental health. Through collaboration we aim to strengthen the resources of all our members.

For information about the Time to Change campaign, visit www.time-to-change.org.uk

This article was written by the RSSB’s mental wellbeing specialist Michelle O’Sullivan.

Read more: Improving line manager training to reduce mental health-related absence