PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events which we struggle to process or make sense of. It can affect memory, concentration, sleep, and social interactions, all of which could impact someone in the workplace. PTSD is a treatable condition.

Each year there are over 200 suicides on the national rail network. Many staff are also affected by events involving work-related violence. Rail workers who witness a fatality, or other traumatic event, can suffer from PTSD. Other effects can include time off work, impaired performance, and litigation.

Employees who feel supported in the workplace following a traumatic event—particularly those who receive immediate practical support—experience reduced symptoms after three months and reduced absence after one year.  Structured trauma management procedures offer a safe response to trauma; and post-trauma support protocols are an effective way to communicate information about the symptoms of PTSD to employees and signpost sources of support. Companies that employ staff who may be exposed to such events are encouraged to have positive support systems in place, but are warned that intervention must not be too immediate. The industry 'Journey to Recovery' and 'Back on Track' booklets can also provide important advice and support for staff who have been involved in a traumatic event. Copies of these booklets can be ordered by emailing suicideprevention@raildeliverygroup.com.

Many rail companies are ‘ahead of the game’ in terms of supporting staff but can learn from other organisations. The Royal Marines, for example, have developed an evidence-based Trauma Risk Management (TRiM) scheme. Other opportunities to actively manage post-trauma support include early intervention for those who develop adverse reactions, and specific interventions such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).  Rail organisations should work closely with Trade Unions to develop policies in this area.

It’s useful to be able to separate the facts from the myths (website registration needed) when looking at mental health. The video below looks at the causes and symptoms of PTSD, which some viewers may find distressing.