RSSB publishes results of rail industry mental health survey

Rail safety body RSSB has published its first mental health survey results, calling for better targeting of support to those that need it.

On the back of the results, RSSB psychologists have warned that employers should steer away from lip-service and token gimmicks, and should target more specific intervention where it’s most needed, focussing on workplace factors they can directly influence.

Almost half (43%) of the survey’s near-4,000 respondents were found to have met criteria for a clinical mental health condition across screen measures for depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders.

The Covid-19 pandemic has likely contributed to poor mental health across the general population and the challenges associated with performing a public-facing role during the pandemic were clear. Half the survey respondents were from the front-line, and the additional pressures have clearly taken their toll.

Despite the prevalence of poor mental health, only half of participants sought help. Sickness absence was five times higher than the general population pre-Covid and six times higher than the general population during the pandemic. One-in-eight respondents reported experiencing an incident at work where their poor mental health had been a factor.

The RSSB has called for more support for those who may be socially excluded such as new starters or those with a disability. There needs to be more reaching out to vulnerable employees with pre-existing mental or physical health conditions, ringfencing time for line managers, union representatives, and wellbeing champions to provide support.

“For the first time we’ve been able to measure the impact of rail industry work on mental health,” said RSSB’s Clinical Psychologist, Dr Michelle O’Sullivan. “The industry has demanding public facing and safety critical roles, with many employees experiencing increased pressure since Covid-19. “Responding to disturbing and challenging situations is often part of those roles. Employers have a responsibility to provide appropriate resources to protect staff from the impact of such events. This research identifies key modifiable work factors that can ensure the rail industry is a great place to work.”

Photo credit: istockphoto.com

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