Virgin Trains commits to tackling mental health stigma

Virgin Trains has signed the Time to Change pledge in commitment to tackling the stigma around mental health.

Virgin Trains East Coast will invest more than £700,000 a year as a signatory to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of its people. This will include a commitment to educating more than 3,000 employees in recognising and taking on mental health issues in both colleagues and customers. Time to Change is an initiative from charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, which looks to encourage people to talk about mental health and improve public attitudes toward mental health problems through training and awareness-raising.

Virgin Trains has also appointed two Mental Health Champions, who are members of the firm’s east coast board, to ensure that the issue is talked about at the highest levels of the organisation. Clare Burles, people director, and Suzanne Donnelly, commercial director, will advocate for mental health issues in board meetings and develop policy to ensure continued support among senior leaders. The firm will also be training all managers to better support employees with mental health issues in the workplace through a Mental Health First Aid course – and will look to roll out this training to all employees in the future.

“We’re very proud to be making a public pledge to improve mental health in our business. At Virgin Trains we take the wellbeing of our employees and the customers who travel with us very seriously,” Clare Burles said. “That’s why, unlike many other train companies, we’ve created an entirely in-house Health and Wellbeing team, whose focus is on improving the mental wellbeing 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.”

Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, added: “We know it can be hard to talk about mental health, which is why we’re supporting employers to open up; to talk and to 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 that making a strategic commitment to the mental wellbeing 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 mental health. More than 500 businesses have signed the pledge to demonstrate their commitment to implementing a mental health plan and create an environment where employees feel able to discuss mental health.

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