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Increasing Access to Mental Health Training

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When I joined the rail industry in 2018, a common problem reported by rail companies was uncertainty about how line managers could be trained better to manage mental wellbeing in the workplace. There was no guidance on the topics line managers should be taught or how training should be delivered. To improve these skills, rail companies were investing in training for line managers with no information on its suitability to drive the desired results.

RSSB and the cross-industry Health Economics Group undertook a two-year research project to promote staff wellbeing. The Institute for Employment Studies, an independent supplier, reviewed existing research on mental health training to identify the topics suitable for line managers. They identified five fundamental topics for developing line managers skills (Figure 1). 

Figure 1. Topics for developing line managers skills

It was identified that many rail companies were procuring training that covered the first response and core skills. But the training procured neglected the skills that are related to the role of a line manager. Upskilling line managers to manage workplace risk can prevent mental ill-health from occurring. Having a manager who can manage absence and return to work effectively, is pivotal to an individual’s rehabilitation and promotes a healthy business.

Following the review, RSSB explored the training courses which covered these topics. RSSB identified Mind’s face to face training as well as their e-learning, covered all five topics. 

The second part of the study, involved an evaluation of Mind’s face to face and e-learning training. This was the first of its kind in the world and compared line managers who had received training with those that had not received training. Upon review six weeks later, the participants revealed that both the face-to-face and e-learning training had led to sustained changes in the line managers’ knowledge about mental health, and in their preparedness to take action on mental health issues. 

Equipped with this knowledge, we hoped rail companies would procure e-learning. Many of our members operate on tight financial margins and making the required investment would be challenging. The cost of training is determined by the size of the company. RSSB realised that if the railway was treated as one organisation, the cost savings could be substantial. 

One of Mind’s priorities is ensuring that as many people have access to information on mental health as possible. They agreed to consider rail companies as a collective, to facilitate roll out of the training, upskilling thousands of employees, at a significantly reduced cost. 

RSSB adapted two of Mind’s e-learning packages with rail specific content, one focussed on raising mental health awareness for all staff, and one for line manager training. Mental health e-learning is demonstrating its value now more than ever, while the industry responds to Covid-19.

Collective buying only works if companies are willing to take the initial plunge and lead the way. On the launch of the e-learning I am pleased to share that Transport for Wales, East Midlands Railway, Transport for London, GTR, Network Rail’s Southern region, Transpennine Express, LNER, VolkerRail, Great Western Railway, South Western Railway, MTR Elizabeth Line, and Northern Trains Limited, formed the collective with RSSB to build on their mental wellbeing provisions, supplementing their existing mental wellbeing provisions and providing the essential leadership that allowed this offer to be available to the industry. Within these first adopters, access to mental health training is extended to approximately 60,000 people. This number is only going to grow as more companies join the collective.

Together, the rail industry has gone from asking a question, finding an answer, and providing a cost-effective solution. This is a process that the industry should be incredibly proud of. I certainly am. I can’t help but wonder, what can the rail industry achieve next as a collective?

Haven’t found what you’re looking for?
Get in touch with our Interim Principal Strategy Implementation Manager - Health and Wellbeing for further information.
Michelle O'Sullivan
Tel: 07710 948 349
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