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It’s time to change: Virgin Trains joins fight to encourage people to talk about mental health issues

Press Release   •   Jun 16, 2017 09:58 BST

(Left to right) From Virgin Trains on the east coast: David Horne, Managing Director, Suzanne Donnelly, Commercial Director, Clare Burles, People Director. Pictured far right: Jo Loughran, Director of Operations at Time to Change.

Virgin Trains signed the Time to Change pledge and named a train in a commitment to tackling the stigma around mental health.

As a signatory, Virgin Trains on the east coast will invest over £700,000 a year to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of its people. As part of this investment, the train operator will commit to educate over 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 look to encourage people to talk about mental health and improve public attitudes towards mental health problems through training and awareness-raising.

In addition, Virgin Trains has 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 buy-in among senior leaders to support the agenda within their own teams. With its Mental Health First aid courses, the firm will also be training all managers to equip them to better support employees with mental health issues in the workplace. It will also look to roll out this training to all employees in the future.

Clare Burles, People Director and Executive Mental Health Champion at Virgin Trains on the east coast said: “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. 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, said: “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. Over 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.

Time to Change is funded by the Department of Health, Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Fund. Set up to create a positive shift in public attitudes towards mental health problems, Time to Change supports communities, schools and workplaces to open up to mental health problems; to talk and to listen.

About Virgin Trains:

Stagecoach and Virgin are working in partnership to operate the East Coast and West Coast inter-city routes under the Virgin Trains brand. Together, they are on track to revolutionise rail travel across the UK.

The combined network connects some of the nation’s most iconic destinations including Glasgow, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, York and London.

Virgin Trains is committed to delivering a high speed, high frequency service, offering shorter journey times, more comfortable travel and excellent customer service. Customers consistently rate Virgin Trains as one of the top long-distance rail franchise operators in the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) commissioned by industry watchdog, Transport Focus.

On the East Coast route, £140m is being invested to create a more personalised travel experience. We have already invested £21m to completely revamp our existing fleet and customers can now benefit from 42 additional services (22,000 extra seats) per week between Edinburgh and London. 2018 will see the introduction of completely new Azuma trains being built in the UK by Hitachi.

The West Coast route has a proud record of challenging the status quo - from introducing tilting Pendolino trains, to a pioneering automated delay repay scheme and becoming the first franchised rail operator to offer m-Tickets for all ticket types.

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