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New mental health organisation is launched for rail

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As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, a new organisation has been formed to specifically focus on the psychological wellbeing of the sector.

Head-shunt is aimed at all who work on the railway and their families – with a view to working with rail operators, promoting education, undertaking research and operating wellbeing activity.

Ultimately, everything it does is to help the railway family be well and reduce the stigma around mental ill health.

It says that particular issues affect railway workers, including 24/7 working, peripatetic working, and routinely being out in all weathers. They can also be faced with dealing with irate customers on stations or trains and are often first responders to rail accidents. 

Rail work by its very nature can be lonely for people – the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.  

With over 100,000 staff directly employed in the UK rail industry and another 200,000 in support functions, mental fitness is key for staff whether working on a heritage railway, tram or metro operations or in UK heavy rail operations.

Speaking about the launch, lifelong railwayman Paul Stanford said: “With the strains and stresses on UK rail staff not just as a result of the day job, but the COVID crisis and the huge changes to the rail industry in the next few years, it’s key that staff in the railway family are well supported.

“We have received some great initial commitment from some of the UK’s largest rail operators including Network Rail, including their training of me as mental health first aider. I’m delighted also that people ranging from signallers to train drivers and office based colleagues have volunteered to help our cause.”

Paul began working on the railways when he was 16.  In Autumn, he was diagnosed in with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from attending rail accidents in his 37 year railway career. Supported by his wife Fiona, as he recovered, they were motivated to do something to help others in the UK railway family and the idea of creating a mental health charity specifically for the wider railway industry was born.

Co founder of Head-shunt; Fiona Ewing-Stanford said: “With personal experience of supporting a rail worker who suffered mental health issues and knowledge of issues affecting women’s mental health in the rail industry I think this is a great initiative; we really believe something additional to current measures is needed to support people in the railway family.

“We look forward to working with the railway family going forward.  The launch of Head-shunt in mental health awareness week 2022 sees a website go live as an initial resource to support and inspire people. Wellbeing events are planned in the coming year in addition to working with colleagues in the railway industry.”

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