HomeIndustry NewsSamaritans calls for more investment to support rail staff mental health

Samaritans calls for more investment to support rail staff mental health

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Suicide prevention charity Samaritans has called for vital investment from the rail industry to ensure rail workers get adequate support for their mental health. This comes after a new report revealed almost one in five have suffered physical abuse at work.

With the rising cost of living and the increase in passengers returning to work, the mental health of rail workers is more important than ever. To coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week (Monday, May 15-Sunday, May 21), Samaritans has shared the findings of an industry-wide survey on mental health and wellbeing support in the rail industry.

A staggering two thirds (66%) of rail staff said they had experienced a change in their mental health, which had impacted their ability to carry out their work. Many of those employees did not go to their organisation to seek help, with some feeling as though they couldn’t.

Last summer, researchers gathered evidence from 1,773 staff, which was conducted by Samaritans and Mental Health at Work, and funded by the Great Western Railway (GWR), with support from the Department for Transport (DfT).

The study finds that:

  • More than half of staff (57%) continued working despite experiencing a change in their mental health that impacted their ability to carry out their job, and 44% said they didn’t seek any support
  • 65% did not seek help for their mental health through their organisation
  • 61% said they had experienced verbal abuse with 19% even suffering physical abuse in their roles
  • Almost a quarter of rail staff (23%) said they had reported being sick to their manager, when it was connected to their mental health

“This study highlights the range of barriers that rail staff experience when it comes to opening up about their mental health and seeking support that provides them with the right tools to feel better,” said Olivia Cayley, Head of Rail Programme at Samaritans.

“We want leaders in the rail industry to recognise that change needs to happen now, with investment into mental health and wellbeing support to better protect staff, so people have the help when they need it most.”

Mental health-related absences have cost the sector over £1.3 billion since the start of 2019, and investing in staff mental health has proven to be cost-effective, with employers receiving an average £5 return for every £1 spent on wellbeing support.

Alison Pay, Manging Director of Mental Health At Work, said: “Investing in health and wellbeing should be a priority in any industry, but for the rail industry, where people are at the centre of the delivery, it is critical for success, safety and productivity, as well as the mental health of employees.

“This report has highlighted the key areas that very specifically impact mental health within the rail industry and the actions that can support employees moving forwards. It brings together the voice of the employee across all roles, alongside existing research and a review of the progress that has been made so far in this area.

“Implementing these changes at scale is inevitably challenging, but we now have a clear roadmap of the next steps and we hope that these compelling findings encourage all operators within this vital sector to begin the journey and make a difference to the working lives of the thousands of front line workers that keep both the country and the economy moving.”

Samaritans has developed a set of recommendations to help transform mental health access in the rail industry, which includes better trauma support, making sure all rail organisations cultivate an inclusive culture and encourage staff to identify and discuss mental health in their workplace.

For more information and the full report can be found here.

Image credit: Samaritans