All change on the trains as Virgin bids to derail mental illness stigma

A leading regional travel operator today signed Time to Change pledge, naming a train in its commitment to tackle stigma surrounding mental health.

Friday, 16th June 2017, 2:19 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st June 2017, 2:19 pm
Virgin Trains East Coast's David Horne, Managing Director, Suzanne Donnelly, Commercial Director and Clare Burles, People Director, with Jo Loughran, Director of Operations at Time to Change.

As a signatory, Virgin Trains will invest over £700,00 a year to improve physical and mental well-being of its people. As part of this investment, the train operator will commit to educate over 3,000 staff in recognising and taking on mental health issues in colleagues and customers.

Time to Change is an initiative from charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness encouraging folk to talk about mental illness and improve public attitudes toward mental health problems through training and awareness-raising.

Virgin Trains has also appointed two Mental Health Champions, members of the firm’s board, to ensure the issue is talked about within highest levels of the organisation.

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People director Clare Burles and commercial director Suzanne Donnelly will advocate for mental health issues in board meetings and develop policy to ensure continued buy-in among senior leaders to support the agenda within their teams.

With its Mental Health First aid courses, the firm will train all managers to equip them to better support employees with mental health issues in the workplace, also seeking to roll out such training to all staff in the future.

East Coast executive mental health champion Clare said: “We’re very proud to be making a public pledge to improve mental health in our business.

"At Virgin Trains we take the well-being of our employees and customers who travel with us very seriously. That’s why, unlike many other train companies, we’ve created an entirely in-house Health and Well-being team, whose focus is on improving the mental well-being of our employees as well as their physical fitness for work.

"Our commitment to working with Time to Change underlines the importance of mental health, not only for our own people but the rail industry as a whole. We’re proud to be leading the way.”

Time to Change director Sue Baker said: “We know it can be hard to talk about mental health, which is why we’re supporting employers to open up, talk and listen.

"Too many people with mental health problems are made to feel isolated, ashamed and worthless. But, with the right support, those of us with mental health problems can recover and have equal opportunities in all areas of life. Everyone’s attitude makes a difference and it’s fantastic to see organisations like Virgin Trains on the East Coast taking the lead.

“Many leading employers have found making a strategic commitment to mental well-being of their workforce not only benefits their staff but also their bottom-line, improving productivity and staff retention. With one in six British workers experiencing mental illness, it's time for businesses to make a change and start creating more mentally healthy workplaces."

Time to Change aims to end mental health discrimination and encourage people to start conversations around a traditionally thorny subject. Over 500 businesses have signed the pledge to demonstrate their commitment to implementing mental health plan to create an environment where employees feel able to discuss mental health.

Time to Change is funded by Department of Health, Comic Relief and Big Lottery Fund. Set up to create a positive shift in public attitudes towards mental health problems, the initiative supports communities, schools and workplaces to open up to all mental health problems.