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Share successful mental health strategies


Virgin Trains says organisations must work together to share mental health best practices

Businesses should be willing to share their successful mental health wellbeing strategies with other firms, according to people director of Virgin Trains Clare Burles.

Speaking to HR magazine, Burles explained that in the past some firms have been unwilling to share their approaches. “They see it as a competitive advantage, but health and wellbeing should not be closed off,” she said. “Responsible employers are happy to open up about it.”

Virgin Trains has signed the Time to Change pledge, promising to invest more than £700,000 a year to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of its people, and committing to educating more than 3,000 employees in recognising and handling mental health issues in both colleagues and customers.

Time to Change is an initiative from charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness that looks to encourage people to talk about mental health and improve public attitudes towards mental health problems through training and awareness-raising. As part of the visibility aspect of the campaign, Virgin Trains has branded a train with the Time to Change logo.

Burles suggested that organisations who would like to start thinking about mental health could contact a business with an established strategy. “Look at who has signed the Time to Change pledge and see what they are doing,” she said. “For example we have a Yammer group to discuss personal stories, and coffee support groups. We also use an app through our employee assistance programme called Stress-Free Island, which offers tips and tools for reducing anxiety and stress.”

Visibility is a key issue, said Burles. “We all know the statistic that says one in four people will experience a mental health problem this year,” she said. “But those are just the cases we know about, from the people with the confidence to speak up. We want to reduce the stigma and shame surrounding this, because once people start talking about it a wave of acceptance is created that allows others to open up.”

She highlighted the growing acceptance of mental health discussion in the media. “We see celebrities talking about this; like the royals getting behind a mental health charity,” she said. “We’re seeing more of a shift towards openness. It’s great, because this is the right thing to do.”