Chartered psychologist and RSSB’s senior work psychologist, Joana Faustino, talks about mental health awareness

The rail industry integrates many complex systems that are supported by and dependent on our single most important asset: the workforce. From a mental wellbeing perspective, keeping our workers safe means understanding the health risks they are exposed to. Only then can we develop a concerted effort to improve workplaces and jobs, and to provide adequate support. A lot of this starts with improving mental health awareness. In 2018, RSSB got a grant from the Department for Work and Pensions, to test an innovative approach that could support rail staff with mental health difficulties to stay in work.

We developed a service, ‘With You in Mind’, and provided direct support to employees struggling at work in light of their mental health and to their employers. When we asked employees and their managers about barriers for successful mental health support at work, both pointed to the lack of mental health awareness as the main culprit. Workers felt their managers did not know how to provide support and managers explained that, while they wanted to help, they did not feel confident to do so. To improve mental health awareness, and confidence in managing mental health at work, ‘With You in Mind’ provided training to 115 line managers, human resources professionals, and peer supporters. Post training data showed an increased knowledge about mental health, preparedness to take action, and confidence to talk about the topic.

During this project we were able to calculate that direct support for employees struggling with mental health issues and for their managers gave a return on investment of between £6.80 and £18.10 for every pound spent, which shows the value of adequate mental health services. A research piece published by the Lancet in 2017 had already shown line manager training to have an ROI of £9 for each pound spent. The vital role of high quality mental health training for line managers had already been described in an RSSB project that looked at the conditions for effective mental health training for line managers.

Leading by example, line managers can contribute to the prevention of mental ill health by raising awareness, addressing workplace stressors, and bridging workers into support. In this project, RSSB identified key topics needed for mental health training for line managers to be effective. We also looked at the effectiveness of face to face versus e-learning training. Finding both were equally effective empowered companies to select the delivery method that best responds to their needs.

This year, in a research project that was published in March, we are looking at the health, safety and wellbeing risks of lone workers. While this research piece did not focus solely on mental wellbeing, the role of mental health awareness for lone workers was clear. Similarly to the issue raised by managers in the ‘With You in Mind’ project, general people management skills appear to represent a gap for managers of lone workers. As lone workers may not have access to the day-to-day interactions and ‘water cooler moments’ other workers have, changes in their behaviour may go unnoticed. Increasing mental health awareness for lone workers, their managers and colleagues appears to be key in creating an environment that allows employees to safely talk about their struggles and to access support.

Due to the nature of the tasks performed by lone workers, they may encounter increased difficulties in accessing training. In improving mental health awareness at an organisational level, it is vitally important for a variety of training formats and delivery methods to be available, to ensure no one is left behind. On the back of these three research projects, RSSB’s chartered psychologists have developed a rail-specific mental health training offering. This will support the industry to increase mental health awareness and to better manage mental health at work. In light of the current
pandemic, both our mental health awareness and mental wellbeing training for line managers courses are delivered remotely by our chartered psychologists and are divided into small chunks, to ensure maximum interactivity and to boost learning.

To ensure the rail industry has access to high quality mental health training that fits the varied needs of workers, RSSB has partnered with Mind, the mental health charity, to customise two mental health e-learning training packs for the industry, which rail companies can purchase at a reduced cost. These are shorter training courses that allow workers to go through
the materials at their own pace. Additionally, RSSB has also been working with rail companies to develop and deliver bespoke mental health webinars and training sessions. These cover topics such as resilience, mental health leadership, and management of potentially traumatic events in rail. If you’d like to talk about training email us at The next Mental Wellbeing for Line Managers training courses are in June and October. Details of all our courses are on our training webpage – resources/training/mental-wellbeingfor- line-managers.

Increasing mental health awareness on an organisational level is key to supporting a healthy work culture. That allows our workforce to not only perform their duties but also really thrive at work, ultimately making the railway a better and safer place to work. Joana Faustino is a chartered psychologist who is passionate about creating healthy workplaces. With over ten years’ experience she has provided mental health support, consultation and training to a variety of professionals, including frontline rail workers and leaders. She is the senior work psychologist for RSSB and currently leads work on mental wellbeing, and work-related violence and trauma.